By Gregory Crofton
In WEINER, a documentary that recently screened at the Nashville Film Festival, Anthony Weiner, a congressman who resigned his seat because of a sexting scandal, runs for mayor of New York City — a job that’s always been his dream.
Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, a close ally and employee of Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and now presidential candidate, supports her husband’s mayoral campaign despite the scandal, helping him set up his office and dutifully remains at his side. But things sour after the media discovers that Weiner continued to sext after he said he’d quit.
WEINER is at times very funny and entertaining, but it’s also a poignant look inside the media from a politician’s point of view. Trash talking. Repetition. Provocation. A sense of inevitable failure. Weiner can’t escape this ever-widening black hole he’s created for himself, partly because of his apparent appetite for sex (participating in phone sex five times a day, according to one accuser).
The wiry, indefatigable and likable Democrat mayoral candidate had been the front-runner before the scandal resurfaced (one explanation of how Bill de Blasio ended up being elected mayor). Refusing to bow out of the race, Weiner confronts the media and his detractors head-on, nearly getting in a fight at a New York City bakery. A side plot also develops around the question of whether Abedin will continue to stand by her husband or cut her losses and head back to the Clinton camp.
According to the New York Post, Weiner regrets agreeing to be part of this film, which captures some intimate moments of his life. Co-director Josh Kreigman previously worked as a district office chief of staff for Weiner, which may account for the access granted to the filmmaking team.
“Part of what animates me is that I hate bullies,” says Weiner in the film, after confronting a moralistic New York City voter. But Weiner is a bully too, one who knowingly dragged his wife and campaign team into harm’s way … and then they all got run over. This is proof he has the balls to make it as a successful politician in America today, a place where you must do immoral things and keep a straight face. Too bad Weiner got caught again. We needed him in New York City.
WEINER won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.