Weiner (2016): Part 2 of 2
Director: Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
Cinematographer: Josh Kriegman
Producer: Christopher Clements, Elizabeth Delaune Warren, Julie Goldman, Carolyn Hepburn, and Sean McGing
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
Discussing the documentary on Slate Political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon was abhorred at the little concern Weiner had for his wife Huma Abedin, who comes across as perhaps the most authentic character in the entire film. The story takes place long after the initial sexting scandal broke out, with Weiner evidently recruiting a documentary crew to capture his return to politics, in which he’s running for Mayor. Abiding by the public’s ability to forget past scandals with lightning speed, Weiner is in a competitive position, and all is looking up for him. He’s out there declaring his commitment to fight for all New Yorkers with all of the passion and charisma that we remembered him for. That is, until news breaks that for the entire first quarter of the film he’s been sexting with a 23 year old stripper.
The news goes national and Weiner begins damage control, requesting that Huma give a humiliating speech during a press conference, explaining how she forgives Anthony, regardless of a repeated offense. Of course, given Weiner’s complete lack of self-control, the press directs their attacks toward her, wondering why and how she could stay with someone who continues lying to everyone.
I believe Bazelon mentioned how awful it was to see Huma in the background in most of these scenes, always attempting to be the great wife, in which Weiner repeatedly guilts her into appearing in campaign commercial videos, sticking to the script, and standing beside him. The entire situation is unbelievable and difficult to watch, especially as a third and even more disgusting scandal broke shortly after the film’s release. During one particularly revealing scene, when after the accusations break, Weiner goes on "The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell", immediately exploding at the host, trying to downplay his actions. The next day, we see him in his New York condo, watching the interview with a grin on his face, reveling in how smart and sharp he is. It becomes all the more disgusting when Huma enters the room, and he attempts to show her his performance. And there she stands once again, disappointed and sad, trying to be a good wife, never asking for anything, as her husband tries to show off his heated debate with Lawrence O’Donnell.
I was left wondering how a man who seemed to have everything he wanted appeared so hellbent on self-destruction. It’s clear that he’s an exceptionally smart guy, and yet he seems willfully ignorant over what his actions could do and who they could hurt. I had trouble believing that he ever could think that his actions would remain hidden. And knowing that fact, he did it anyway, demonstrating a complete lack of self control, oblivious to the pain he’s causing.
And it’s this obliviousness that is so alarming. Whether to the voters who question his honesty, reporters who keep asking if the sexting has concluded, or his wife who’s constantly on the verge of breaking down in tears, trying to hold herself together in front of everyone - that I really began to feel hate toward the man, thinking how I once saw this man as the future of progressive politics and the Democratic Party. He ignored his family and friends and all those believed in him for reasons we’ll never understand.
Anthony Weiner embodies what people hate about politics; the varying personas, leaving us to wonder if perhaps the sexting-Weiner is the one genuine person there is in all this mess - addicted to the thrill of finding young, attractive and fanatical women. He is a person whose only worse addiction than sexting is his need for attention and praise. No matter how dark things get in the film, it seems he never fully grasps the extent of what he’s doing, leaving me to wonder if he even cares about the causes he triumphs. I get the sense that his liberal leanings were simply convenient; not that he’s conservative so much as adopting whatever beliefs are best suited for advancing his career.
In the age of Trump, I don’t view this so much as insight into a tragic and disgusting situation as much as a forewarning; that some individuals in government and aspiring to get there do only care about themselves, embodying a selfishness that should alarm anyone. It left me wondering how many genuinely good people serve in office, and what got them there, when battling against candidates like Weiner. I’d like to think many, but the idea that someone like him could get this far; who I bet will again make a comeback for the public arena some time in the future, drowning out other good people by his connections and complete apathy.
BELOW: That's one way to talk to someone
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