God Knows When but You're Doing It Again
Is it momentary aberration or else illusion that the State of New York is the epicenter of political stink and public officials caught with their pants down? Whichever of the two possibilities, male sexual hanky-panky-ers are the ones who make headlines and unmake careers (and marriages). Non-judgmental although unavoidably inviting viewer verdict, Weiner traces with humor a scandal, or series of such, that showcases foolishness, bad taste, idealism, cynicism, laughs, a wife’s sour look, ethno-religious animosity, and the media obscenity of popular culture.
Co-directed, -produced, -written and -edited by Josh Kriegman (also cameraman) and Elyse Steinberg, the Sundance Grand Jury Documentary Prize-winning and MoMA-Lincoln Center New Directors/New Films selection is objective although its very content editorializes in itself. And, not seeing inside himself, in frustration once-wunderkind candidate Anthony Weiner unfairly berates the filmmakers for not fitting what he had supposed or hoped “fly on the wall” to be.
The story of this particular fall from grace is known in advance -- now. But when Steinberg and the title subject’s ex-New York Chief of Staff and 2005 campaign worker Kriegman began their close-up and personal study that has emerged with next to nothing censored, no one intuited that lightning was about to strike a second time.
“Very open and obviously very comfortable in front of the camera,” the young political star from Brooklyn was starting all over again, immeasurably enhanced by his wife and Hillary Clinton’s top aid Huma Aberdin and their two-year-old son Jordan, after earlier sexting photos of himself in underwear had forced his resignation from Congress. Then, in the midst of what early appeared a remarkable resurrection, he lamely denies but soon has no choice but to admit that he has goofed again. The cries that, in defiance of Scott Fitzgerald’s “no second acts in American lives” our great-hearted nation does indeed forgive and forget, quickly turn to cynical recrimination, as his 2013 mayoral run disintegrates into a dismal distant fifth of five aspirants, 4.93% of the vote to be exact.
CNN, C-Span, Sirius XM, MSNBC, WPIX, WNET, NY 1, the Times, the admitted tabloids, the talk shows, the whole mötley crüe media vulture descended on the affair--affairs, in fact, for it seems multiple women were involved. Though she and he had never been in the same location at the same time, unconsciously laughable twenty-three-year-old Sydney Leathers stalks both the fallen hero with clay feet and her own fifteen minutes of famousness.
Frazzled by this time, the candidate cannot sweep anger beneath a rug of resigned acceptance. Between cavorting at the City’s many ethnic and gender parades, he unwisely opens himself to angry confrontation with a profane bakery-customer heckler whose anti-Arab barb regarding Abedin he has not heard but which is caught by mics.
In a late, again politically innocent moment while sullen she picks at food after cruelly crudely being called Señora (Carlos) Danger, he verbally castigates his messing up everything. Earlier, Lawrence O’Donnell is nasty in insistence that Weiner need psychiatric help. The candidate’s defense of the squeezed Middle Class is vigorous and admirable, but his political and personal naïveté is a puzzlement. Why did he accept such unfettered and tasteless TV scrutiny, permanent, undeniable and archived? Why did he accept and allow to continue this documentary bearing his name? And how can he not realize that repeat offenders caught red-handed can expect no mercy?
Marlene Dietrich noted that sex is a European fact of life but an American obsession and public no-no. In this age of viral Insta-everything and selfie-promotion, exhibitionists and egos splash about their bodies and breakfasts menus for the world to savor and “like.” Elected figures need to beware of this, but Weiner’s belief in his message and mission blinkers him from understanding relationships with family, staff, friends and voters who believe in him. The tragedy of this charming and intelligent man is that, unlike a tragic figure, he comes to no self-awareness. The fault he admits to, but the reasons escape him.
(Released by Motto Pictures and rated "R" for language and some sexual material.)