As Britain’s very own saga of political intrigue plays itself out in the wake of Brexit, the timing couldn’t be better for Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Sundance-winning fly-on-the-wall documentary chronicling the fall, rise and fall again of one-time Democrat wunderkind Anthony Weiner. The youngest person to be elected to council in New York City history, Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in June 2011 after posting an explicit photograph of himself to a female Twitter follower on his public account. Remarkably, both his career and his marriage survived, and two years later, all but forgiven by the public, he launched his campaign to become Mayor of New York City. He seemed unstoppable, until further sexting allegations emerged, and a once-sparkling political career imploded with astonishing speed, played out on televisions and smartphones worldwide.
It’s the sort of catastrophic fall from grace House of Cards’ Frank Underwood can only orchestrate in his dreams, but what makes this tale so extraordinary is that there is no Machiavellian mastermind pulling strings backstage, just one man who is both hero and supervillain in his own story, an unquestionably brilliant and charismatic politician with a terminal lack of self-awareness. We begin at the start of his 2013 campaign, a montage of career highs to date painting Weiner as fired up and fearless, a true man of the people in a country enslaved to corporate greed. With his past behind him he lights up social media, harnessing its power as a tool to reach his voters, but fails to grasp how this modern force of nature can turn against him.
It’s in exploring the blurred lines between personal and public in a digital age that Weiner really shines, highlighting the tragedy of a once-respected figure whose progressive policies on healthcare and education have been overshadowed by a sensationalist media hungry for gossip. Yes, Weiner is flawed, but aren’t we all? Wisely, Kriegman, Steinberg and editor Eli Despres (Blackfish) choose to highlight the absurdity of the situation, juxtaposing their own objective view of events with the media’s sledgehammer approach. At times the film borders on the partisan – of 400 hours shot we see little of Weiner’s allegedly fearsome temper – but his camera-hogging charisma is hard to resist. The result is a high-stakes tragicomedy that recalls The Office at its best; touching, painful, hilarious and human.
Weiner is released nationwide on 8th July 2016.
Watch the trailer for Weiner here: