Many of my friends have said of the current Presidential election follies, “You couldn’t make this stuff up.” The same is true of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s career—before, during and after his notorious sexting scandal. When Weiner decided to run for Mayor of New York City in 2013 he allowed documentary filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg extraordinary access to his public—and even private—life. The results are utterly fascinating.
Some might call them grimly fascinating, as there is a poignancy to Weiner’s saga: here is a respected public official, dedicated to serving the people, who threw it all away by texting photos of his penis—and making a lame attempt to deny it, at first. His mayoral race two years later was an attempt to gain redemption and credibility, with his high-profile, long-suffering wife (Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin) at his side.
We’ve seen cinema verité profiles before, but this one is almost meta-cinema-verité because its subject is so aware of the process. Toward the end of the documentary he is asked why he allowed the filmmakers to chronicle his story, a question that nags at us in the audience throughout. I won’t reveal his answer, but it ties into his need for validation—as well as his cluelessness.
Weiner is downright uncomfortable to watch at times but, like the proverbial train wreck, it’s hard to look away.