Weiner begins with a clever epigram from Edmonton-born media theorist Marshall McLuhan: “The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.” It is arguably going too far to suggest that former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s destiny was written in his (quite common) Germanic appelation, but, as we behold this riveting encapsulation of Weiner’s sadly catastrophic 2013 campaign and its astonishing midpoint reversal, there is a sense that sometimes history, politics and personal journeys are sometimes contingent on something as seemingly slight as a surname.
Did you all pay attention to this when it went down? If you know anything at all about Anthony Weiner, alas, it probably has to do with his weenie, which he has a troubling tendency to photograph and send to women. Troubling above all to Huma Abedin, his wife and a beloved former aide to Hillary Clinton (yet another inauspicious omen). Huma forgave Weiner publicly when Weiner was still a congressman and the first dick-pics made the news. Then Weiner runs for mayor and is leading in the polls by a solid margin … and then here come yet more dick-pics. Huma forgives him again. (At least I think she does.) But, ironically, millions of voters don’t. While Weiner seems to be speaking to a majority of his city’s interests with his scrappy but articulate tirades against self-preserving corporate fat-cats and his dedication to the middle-class, it’s his tempestuous private life, most especially his exhibitionism, that winds up sealing his fate. His popularity plummets and never recovers.
(How curious to consider the case of Anthony Weiner unfolds at roughly the same time as the saga of the late Rob Ford, who makes Weiner’s transgressions look positively tame in comparison.)
Directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, Weiner does a remarkable job of tracking the whole tawdry trajectory. They began documenting Weiner’s life, it seems, from early in his mayoral run, and while I can’t quite approve of their cinematic chops—phony documentary tropes aside, does anyone really need to zoom in and out this much, to record sound this poorly?—I can certainly attest to their ability to gain access to their subjects and craft a narrative that you cannot take your eyes off of. From Weiner’s seductive, frequently inspiring showboating in debates and parades to the last-act arrival of Weiner’s shamelessly opportunistic sexting buddy, 23-year-old porn actress Sydney Leathers, Weiner tells a coherent, fascinating, finally appalling story of self-sabotage and, much more importantly, the triumph of American puritanism and/or lust for public shaming over the integrity of its political health.
Fri, Jul 8 – Thu, Jul 14
Directed by Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Metro Cinema at the Garneau