Weiner proves prophetic: The campaign goes from great to terrible fast, and much of the damage is caught on camera. But as a greater service to us all, Weiner is a worthy undertaking — an intimate warts-and-all account of today’s messy political sphere, the free-for-all media that fuels it, and even our collusion (more scandal, less policy, please).
The feisty Weiner was a rising Democratic star; his wife, Huma Abedin, was Hillary Clinton’s top aide. Then, in 2011, he got caught sexting other women. The ensuing brouhaha was a gift to tabloid headline-writers (“Weiner: I’ll Stick It Out,” “Obama Beats Weiner”) and a seeming death knell to Weiner’s career: He resigned. But, as the film depicts, his mayoral run — despite snickering and another round of manufactured outrage (Trump sputters, “No perverts!”) — takes off. Until the other shoe drops — more sexts and photos — and the public’s forgiving mood sours.
Weiner — and the doc crew — soldier on through election day, and it’s not always easy to watch. There’s Weiner’s almost pathological need for attention; his self-destructive combativeness; the misery of his staff trying to do a job they increasingly don’t believe in; and Abedin’s visible unease. There is no way viewers can know the totality and the various emotional dynamics of Weiner and Abedin’s relationship, but it is impossible not to speculate when the camera slides onto Abedin’s tightly held face.
In all, Weiner is a fascinating document, both on the personal level of Weiner’s travails, and as a larger examination of our enthusiastic embrace of media-driven scandal-outrage-forgiveness cycles where years of service can be undone in an instant.
In the film’s final scene, an off-camera voice asks Weiner, “Why did you let me film this?” Weiner just gives a resigned shrug. But the answer is there unspoken and obvious: It’s how we all roll now.