The Tragically Absurd: Our Review of ‘Weiner’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 01, 2016
The Tragically Absurd: Our Review of ‘Weiner’

It is both riveting and uncomfortable watching the slow downfall of former Congressman and New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. And however much you know about the scandal that befell the fiery, liberal lion pales in comparison to the access gained, and the intimate, awkward, absurd conversations that took place across weeks and months back in 2013.

In Weiner¸filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg were set to catalog Weiner’s return to seeking public office after a photo-sharing scandal in 2011 ended his 12-year run as a New York Congressman – and they did. Weathering a unique scandal, in which Weiner sent suggestive sexual photos to an online admirer, in which social media proved fatal, in which the confluence of the easy jokes, media frenzy, and platforms to mock where everywhere, Weiner was set for a serious bid for New York City mayor.

He rose again,  becoming once more beloved and firing up crowds in support of the working class, minorities, and LGBT communities while rivals, such as Bill De Blasio (spoiler alert, he’s mayor) appear robotic and uninspired. Then, there was another fall.

With incredible access, Weiner follows the mayoral candidate as more explicit photos and details about online relationships emerge, all the while Huma Abedin, his faithful wife and politico in her own right – she was and still is an advisor to Hillary Clinton – stands by and offers her support.

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And we observe: we bear witness to conflicting attitudes and startling revelations, not just about a singular politician, but our media and society. At one point a woman on the street and Weiner supporter dismisses the  questions during a Weiner conference in Bronx – she is in need of relief in her neighborhood and for her family, she could care less about his personal life.

Yet the media’s obsession grew. And Weiner’s obsession about power never seemed to falter either. He is seen as made up of pride, defiance, shamelessness, denial, generosity, compassion, and a slew of other conflicting attitudes that make him a fascinating figure. It’s made all the more difficult to watch still if you were one of those who loved his politics: a vocal, charismatic, and dedicated Democrat who has enlivened his party before his downfall.

In a heated and famous interview with journalist Lawrence O’Donnell, Weiner is asked directly and aggressively, “what is wrong with you?” The meaning behind that question lingers throughout the film as you search for answers. Yet it seems so obvious, but because the answer is simple, it’s unsatisfying. He did it because it was exciting. He seeks the spotlight, and finds satisfaction in stirring himself and others up. Even while watching the interview after the fact, he smirks, like a boy who is proud of some disaster he’s caused – Abedin is less than impressed.

Democratic mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner makes his concession speech at Connolly's Pub in midtown Tuesday, September 10, 2013 in New York. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio held a clear lead Tuesday night in New York City's mayoral Democratic primary as polls closed, according to early and incomplete voting returns. (AP Photo/Jin Lee)

Weiner is a whirlwind of incidents and ideas and conversations that oppose, contradict, challenge, and invigorate that which we know to be true and that which we feel. Even the current Republican Presidential nominee makes an appearance, calling Weiner a ‘loser,’ but only a few years later, here is a businessman entrenched in scandal after scandal, but nothing sticks to him. So has anything changed? Are we as media consumers immune or ambivalent? Or do we just latch on to something when it seems like fun?

Many questions are raised, with few settling answers. Weiner is mesmerizing and tragic, an indictment on a once influential man, but also on all of us who feed the flames of scandal and self-righteousness.

 

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