Sharp Reviews: ‘Weiner’

An intellectually limp, ultimately unsatisfying account of Weiner’s self-aggrandizing.

I can’t help but feel like I’m not the intended audience for Weiner. This documentary is laser-focused on Anthony Weiner, who is the eye of a complex, sexually charged storm. He’s clearly an important part of the story, but is nothing compared to the swirling winds of scandal and electoral drama that rip up the world around him. I expect that the intended audience is already intimately familiar with the story of Anthony Weiner: the fall, the election, everything. I had not heard of him before viewing this, and so I found its laser focus frustratingly limited. I wanted to know about the election and the politics behind it all. If you, like me, want a deeper understanding of this messy election, you’ll find Weiner unsatisfying.

For the uninitiated: now-infamous American politician Anthony Weiner is a former congressman whose  sexts, including dick pics, were leaked onto the internet in 2011. The controversy was exacerbated by the fact that Huma Abedin, former advisor to Hillary Clinton and his wife at the time, was pregnant with their first child. She, it turned out, was not the recipient of these sexually charged messages. Uh-oh!

The documentary picks up in 2013; the Weiner is back, baby! And he’s running for the mayor’s seat of New York City. Unfortunately, Weiner is a shallow account that offers no real insight into the man, the mayoral race or the fallout of his actions.

The strongest part of Weiner is Anthony. He is strangely charismatic, although a part of me felt he was too self-satisfied at being the focus of the documentary. He clearly loved being the centre of attention, and the documentary makes no attempt to challenge him in any way. It sort of felt like I was doing exactly what he wanted me to do, like this documentary was intended to be a PR stunt, complete with clearly calculated candour; in watching it, I was playing right into his smarmy, politically desperate hands. About thirty minutes into the film I felt spiteful, watching more out of a desire to see him flail in the controversy as opposed to gleaning whatever political insight I could take from the doc.

When the second wave of dick pics hits and the campaign grinds to a halt, the movie maintains a firmly sympathetic perspective and doesn’t seek to flesh out the issue at all. It barely even attempts to explain how the world is reacting beyond his falling poll numbers. Put plainly: there are more interesting parts of this story than Anthony Weiner and his wife silently staring at each other for a minute. This is, again, indicative of my own limited grasp of the situation, but the film is a lean hour and a half. Another 10 or 20 minutes dedicated to fleshing out the world beyond Weiner would have gone a long way to elevate the rest of the experience for me.

In the end, I can’t find it in myself to recommend Weiner. Frankly, this is because, since its release, Anthony has been sent to jail for sexting a 15-year-old. On top of being despicable, it makes his coy denial of any sexual wrongdoing in the film eerie. It’s one thing when these are consensual infidelities – there’s a certain scandalous allure to that. Pedophilia is nothing but repulsive, and really casts a whole shadow over the events of Weiner. He could have been doing this right underneath our noses, and there’s no way to know. Even if Weiner was good I would be hesitant to want to give Anthony any exposure at all; he deserves none. But with Weiner being as shallow and superficial as it is, there is no reason to even consider watching. Your time would be better spent doing literally anything else.

I saw Weiner at a screening courtesy of Mount Allison’s Political Science and International Relations Society! Check them out on Facebook!

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