A portrait of a fully exposed politician
What is made clear from the opening sequence of the film, and intermittently throughout, is that Anthony Weiner had all the qualities of a could-be-great politician. Married to a politically savvy wife (Huma – Hillary Clinton’s top aide) with an adorable young son it was clear this man had a reason to care about his city. He spoke passionately and articulately about important matters, a firm believer in Obama and medicare for all, whilst being immensely charismatic and camera friendly. If only he could have kept it in his pants.
Anthony Weiner was a U.S politician, a man-of-the-people representative, who spent 12 years serving a district in New York. On May 27th 2011 he uploaded a picture onto Twitter of his erect penis concealed in a pair of grey briefs. Although the photo quickly disappeared from Twitter the damage had already been done as screen shots of his message and the photo soon swamped the internet. Weiner initially denied the photo was of him and denied that he had uploaded it. Further revelations followed and he soon admitted accountability,resigning from Congress and politics in general. The documentary begins in 2013 when Weiner returns to politics and announcing his intent to run for mayor of New York City. Things appear to be going well until yet more revelations threaten to destroy both his professional and personal life.
This is an easy contender for documentary of the year. Anthony Weiner is the perfect subject for a documentary. As a person he has a magnetic charisma, convivial and companionable to his voters. As a politician he speaks passionately and powerfully, demonstrating a firm set of beliefs and values. For a man whose surname is slang for penis he seemed to overcome any obstacles and was beginning to successfully ride to the top (ha!) The irony (?) of his exposing his wiener online remains funny throughout the film, particularly through the use of archive footage and headlines (the best has to be ‘Obama beats Weiner’) but that’s not where the only humour comes from.
Aside from the juvenality of his apparent namesake there’s a unique humour that is apparent throughout the entirety of the film. This is a man who did something stupid once (well a few times during one period) and lost his career in the process, as well as nearly destroying his marriage. Deciding to square up for round two would not have been an easy decision for anyone involved yet he chose to – even choosing to let in a documentary crew to record the process. And yet he manages to make the same mistakes again, sending further messages and even more seexually explict images, and ending up being an even bigger caricature. The only way to describe this is the a non-fiction political version of ‘This Is Spinal Tap’; it reaches a level of buffoonery that only real life can.
This is a true warts-and-all documentary. The documentary use their being there to witness the second downfall to their fullest advantage. Considering they had been there to film a man’s redemption and ending up getting first hand access to his repeating the scandal they have no qualms in further exposing the man. What follows is a titillating documentary, one that is frequently painful to watch yet bizarrely uplifting.
A fascinating masterpiece showcasing one man’s twice-inflicted self-destruction. This isn’t a tale of redemption, but a rags to riches to rags to riches to rags tale. Weiner ends up being a fable, the epitome of the perils of hubris.