Weiner

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Following the 2013 New York City mayoral candidacy of former congressman Anthony Weiner, Weiner is a superb political documentary that is at the same time funny and tragic. The film is a behind-the-scenes look at Weiner’s shot at political redemption, two years after resigning from Congress in 2011 for his infamous sexting scandal. It begins with archival footage of his promising career, especially his impassioned support for the 9/11 first responders health bill. Mostly relying on the filmmakers simply rolling the camera in a cinéma vérité style, we watch a political campaign starting from the ground up and eventually building momentum. However, an even more disastrous scandal, involving Weiner sending much more explicit images after the first revelation, proves to derail the campaign. The film unwittingly becomes a case study in crisis management. Almost comically, nothing seems to stop the nuclear meltdown that has become Anthony Weiner’s campaign. One of the more fascinating aspects of the documentary is the cringe-worthy reactions of his wife Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton. She becomes a sympathetic character whose marital problems are relentlessly made public. As a result, the film is at times painful to watch as Abedin is paraded in front of the cameras and Weiner continues to make things worse. The story really is stranger than fiction, and it is hard not to laugh at the absurdities of the situation, particularly with his last name. The filmmaker rightly asks Weiner why on Earth would he agree to being filmed. The movie is also about the modern media who, fairly or not, completely focused on salacious details at the detriment of the central characters. Through its fly-on-the-wall style, the documentary reminded me of the groundbreaking 1993 political documentary The War Room about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Overall, I would highly recommend the film for its ability to incisively show the inner workings of a political campaign, one mired in scandal and damage control. It is able to delve into the usually mundane world of politics in a entertaining and riveting fashion.

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