Movie review of “Weiner”: Documentary, given uncanny access, catches painful, uncomfortable moments during the Anthony Weiner scandal. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Quite possibly the most uncomfortable silence in cinema this year comes midway through the documentary “Weiner,” about former congressman/serial tweeter Anthony Weiner. (In case you’ve mercifully forgotten, Weiner resigned his congressional seat in 2011 after a social-media scandal involving lewd photos.) In 2013, Weiner launched a New York mayoral campaign with an invited film crew documenting the journey, but evidence eventually surfaced of additional online philandering. In an office at campaign headquarters, Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin (a senior aide to Hillary Clinton), paces nervously, drilling holes of fire in him with her eyes, daring him to say something. You want to look away, as you nonetheless stare — and you wonder what a camera’s doing in that room.
Documentarians Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman have uncanny access in this film, to the extent that, late in “Weiner,” we hear what’s presumably Kriegman’s voice asking the candidate, “Why have you let me film this?” (Weiner’s response: a nearly imperceptible shrug, as if the answer goes without saying.) The result is a fascinating portrait of a politician — a man who, it seems, doesn’t feel that he exists unless someone’s looking at him. In one scene, we see him watch himself on television, grinning maniacally; he can’t seem to tear his eyes away from the screen.
“Weiner” has a jokey lightness through much of its running time, punched up with music (the theme from “S.W.A.T.” is precisely deployed) and absurd sound bites. (My favorite: a CNN interviewer pronouncing to Weiner, in stentorian tones, “You would know if those were your underpants!”) Watch Abedin’s quiet misery, and the not-quite-controlled fury of some of Weiner’s staffers, however, and the film becomes something else: betrayal, caught in a camera’s glare. His name might be a punchline, but his story — and the human toll that it took — isn’t.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Weiner,’ a documentary directed by Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman. 100 minutes. Rated R for language and some sexual material. Guild 45th.