Weiner is one of the most satisfying and hilarious political films ever made, which makes the fact that it’s a fly-on-the-wall documentary all the more impressive
Where most documentaries often rely on style to tell a story, fly-on-the-wall documentaries have to rely on the subject. Thankfully for Weiner, the subject is a narcissistic politician that can’t seem to keep his mouth shut (no, I am not talking about Donald Trump). Though it started as a film about his comeback, Josh Kriegman (a former aide to Weiner) discovered that the film was going to be a very different story.
For those of you that don’t know, Anthony Weiner was a Democratic congressman on the rise. His passion when it comes to talking about policy and the issues he cares about is palpable in clips shown early in the film. However, after a sexting scandal is revealed by Weiner himself — he accidentally posted a lewd picture to his Twitter account — he resigns in 2011.
Two years later at the behest of his wife he decides to run for mayor of New York City. The movie is filmed by a former aide of Weiner who fully intended to document his comeback into the political arena, and that’s what is committed to film for the first part of the movie.
There are no theatrics (save for one moment late in the movie involving a McDonald’s), which not only adds to the realism, but to the fact that this isn’t a movie one event. Yes, Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal started this entire ordeal. But this film is more concerned with the players involved. It is about his self-destruction and his arrogance.
However, the real brilliance of Weiner as a film is its editing. I don’t think I’ve watched a documentary that made me laugh. One of my favorite comedic beats is when Weiner, jumping around at several parades including, but no limited to, Columbian Heritage, Caribbean Heritage, Pride, Jewish, and many more, is interrupted in a beautifully orchestrated smash cut to his rival Bill DeBlasio in a nearly unattended and silent parade as he smiles and waves.
And although he is a ridiculous politician with a ridiculous name who was involved in a ridiculous scandal, the movie doesn’t let us forget that there is a victim here: his wife, Huma. The filmmakers make it a point to show Huma’s reaction during the hard points. Her face is so expressive as she watches her husband’s campaign implode and eventually, she subtly lays the groundwork for her marriage imploding. It’s such perceptive filmmaking to the point that you’d think it was staged.
If Weiner was a scripted film it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive, but the fact that the filmmakers were able to perfectly translate Weiner’s doomed campaign to film makes it impressive. But what make it a great film — and one of my favorites of the year — is that underneath the ridiculousness the film truly focuses on the people involved and paints detailed portraits the emotional ride they go on. Weiner is a human film told in a human way.