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Weiner (2016) ****

Weiner (2016) ****

In a well-balance documentary, Weiner’s filmmakers do a good job highlighting the layers of an onion called Anthony Weiner.
As a refresher: a promising politician, compassionate about issues close to his heart, and well-liked by many New Yorkers, Weiner got caught up in a scandal of his making when sexually explicit text messages (sexting) he sent appeared in the media. What followed was his 2011 congress seat resignation. In 2013 Weiner decided to run for the Democratic Party primaries for NYC Mayorship. The film, produced with Weiner's concent, follows the disintegration of his campaign as well as the start of the unravelling of his personal life, when new allegations regarding his sexting fetish surfaced close to the election date.
Documentary filmmaking, even the “fly on the wall” technique used in this film, is never really objective. Angles of shots, selective editing, timing, all come into play to present a biased picture. And that is absolutely fine and even necessary to make the story interesting. In the case of Weiner (the film,) the main character himself makes the job easy for the filmmakers. Anthony Weiner, despite his faults, is a likable guy that, unfortunately, suffers from a strong inner need to self-destruct. This is, by no means, a judgement on his fetish, but rather the conclusion one is led to make when watching this tale. Yet, nothing is as complicated as human nature and its related interactions.
Weiner, the film, covers three main perspectives: Weiner the politician, his marriage, and the media blitz. Each aspect can likely be made into a full-lenght film as there is much to explore. Yet packed into one documentary, we, the audience, can watch these three panels interconnect, ultimately leading to Weiner’s demise.
Another interesting aspect of this film is how it is both amusing and sad; much like the troubled humor of laughing at a man slipping on a banana peel. We like, and may even feel for Weiner, yet his actions, interactions and what ensues are, well, funny.
Some questions remain unanswered, one of which is best expressed by a TV persona who interviews Weiner and asks him point blank “What is wrong with you?” Again, in the context of the film, this is not a judgment on Weiner’s fetish but rather, as another person who confronts the candidate later in the film expresses, a disappointment. When Weiner loses his calm and barks at that person that he too is likely no saint, the other fellow replies, yes, but I am not running for office. It is also interesting to observe how much had changed in the media, and in public opinion, as to what is acceptable with respect to political candidates; all in the space of just a few years. The Weiner scandal now looks like a child’s play when compared with the Trump campaign. But that is another topic.
As disturbing as it is, Weiner, the documentary is well worth seeing.

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