The core question at the center of both the documentary “Weiner” and Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign itself is: Does the subject of a sex scandal deserve a second chance?
In June 2011, then-U.S. Rep. Weiner shared a picture on Twitter of just about the worst thing he could, given his name. The ensuing controversy led him to resign his seat in Congress. This documentary begins two years later when, thinking the world will let him move past his indiscretions, Weiner decides to run for mayor of New York.
As it turns out, while a number of New Yorkers were willing to forgive Weiner, the media was not. New pictures and interviews with one of the women with whom he sexted led to the eventual crashing and burning of his campaign.
Weiner’s mayoral race, however, is effectively just the backdrop against which the film is set. In truth, the documentary is mostly a study of Weiner’s character. By providing candid moments with the candidate, it shows him to be an egotistical and flawed but also quixotic and sympathetic man.
While, as Weiner himself points out, the former congressman has a spectacular aptitude for screwing things up, it’s hard not to like him just a little bit. He’s like a child who touches a lit stove, gets burned and then decides to touch it a few more times, believing that he can make the pain go away if he just tries hard enough.
If the documentary has a breakout star, it is Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin. Though she rarely voices her feelings toward her husband to the camera, she has a very expressive face. It’s not difficult to guess what she’s thinking most of the time. Though obviously incredibly frustrated at her husband, Abedin chooses to stick by him. Under different circumstances, the bond between Weiner and Abedin might have been quite charming.
Perhaps the best scenes in the movie are of Weiner’s happenstance interactions with people on the street. The sheer range of emotions that New Yorkers feel when they see him is a delight to watch. “Weiner” is a great film for anyone interested in the human stories that occur behind the scenes of political scandals.