| August 23, 2016

During his time in congress, Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was a passionate and vocal advocate for the fair treatment of all Americans, and a loud opponent to bureaucratic incompetence gumming up the works and keeping congress from fulfilling its chief purpose: serving the people who elected them to be there.  He was blunt, candid, informal, unconventional, and amazing.

Weiner resigned from congress in 2011 after it was revealed that he was having sexually explicit phone calls and text message conversations with several women.  He never met these women, or had an extramarital affair as far as anyone has revealed, but the humiliation of the scandal was enough to drive Congressman Weiner from office.

In 2013, Weiner decided to run for Mayor of New York City, working to put his mistakes behind him and get back to what he does best: public service.  In the spirit of transparency, Weiner allowed a documentary film crew to tell the story of his rise back into the spotlight.  Everything was going really well and the voters were starting to listen to his position on the issues as he masterfully shut down reminders of his past indiscretions when new pictures and texts come to light to reignite the scandal that ended his political career a couple of years earlier.

As a documentary, this is terrific, and tells an important story about a guy who despite his mistakes tirelessly worked to help people in his state and country.  It’s just a shame that he allowed himself to get swept up in a series of flirtations that ultimately prevented him from being able to use his incredible charisma and vigor to help anyone else.

The documentary shows a side of Weiner that I was completely oblivious to.  He’s funny, wickedly intelligent, and ironic.  Little moments like him running into a random woman on the street while being followed by a camera crew and her asking if he’s someone she should know.  “I assure you, no” he responds, enjoying meeting someone who knows nothing of his jaded past.  The joy is short lived when a man walking by points out who he is and it clicks for the woman who is left to just watch a defeated Weiner ride his bicycle away.

Even when Weiner feels alienated in his country, city, and home, his quest for redemption and forgiveness so he can go back to work as an elected official is really moving and fascinating to watch.  One favorite scene comes about a half hour in when Weiner finds himself breaking even in the polls.  He’s sitting on the subway, surrounded by people reading newspapers and showing him headlines that read things like “Weiner leads in surprise new poll” and it looks like he’s going to cry at the mere idea that his city could forgive him.  Cut to the scandal being reignited with new pictures and transcripts coming out.

Looking at Anthony Weiner as a character in a movie, I can believe to his giving into temptation.  The rush that comes from being in the public eye and beloved by his constituents, some of whom are women who make their admiration known must be very intoxicating.  I can’t justify his decision to play out these fantasies even if he didn’t physically cheat on his wife, but the reality of a goofy guy like Weiner suddenly becoming the focus of all this affection is easy for me to buy into.  The one thing I don’t get is that his wife, Huma, who was a powerful campaign advisor for Hillary Clinton before getting married, is absolutely stunningly beautiful, and the women that Weiner engaged in this inappropriate activity with absolutely stunningly weren’t.

In the end, this is a great documentary about a great and flawed individual.  I really hope he can put this all behind him and finds his way back into public service someday.

Available now on DVD from IFC Films

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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