Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn't stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.
Serving seven consecutive terms, Anthony Weiner, good friends with and political allies to the Clintons, was once a highly respected member of Congress from New York City, he seen as a man sticking up for the every day person. That all changed in June, 2011 when he was forced to resign in disgrace after admitting that he did tweet lewd "headless" photos of himself from his public Twitter account to women he met online, and that it was not the work of a hacker or that the photos were of someone else. At the time, his wife Huma Abedin, herself a key aide to Hillary Clinton, was pregnant with their first child, she who decided to stand by her man. Two years later with Abedin still by his side, Weiner tries to resurrect his political career in a run for New York City mayor. He realizes that he has an uphill battle not only because of the known previously tweeted photos, but that there are other lewd photos from that era that may also come to light during the campaign. Regardless of the ... Written by
Anthony Weiner was a young congressman on the cusp of higher office when a sexting scandal forced a humiliating resignation. Just two years later, he ran for Mayor of New York City, betting that his ideas would trump his indiscretions. He was wrong.
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I feel like these three quotes kind of sum up a lot of what this movie, Weiner, a documentary that chronicles as a harrowing, cringe-inducing tragedy of politician Anthony Weiner's failed bid for the 2013 Mayoral race in New York city, is going for, but only part of it. You can look at what the filmmakers present from different angles - as a portrait of a media that, due to how it operates (especially in New York city with the Daily News and Post and everything under the sun) in reporting the 'news' of this or that or the other with Weiner's sexting as "Carlos Danger", and how this media obsession perpetuates things further and further (technology itself is part of it - imagine what would've happened if things were only 10 or 15 years before this), or of course as a portrait of a man and his marriage which we see glimpses of in quiet looks and stares and things that the (mostly) fly-on-the-wall filmmakers get.
What you think about Weiner ahead of time may influence you going in. Or if you don't know much about him outside of the Daily Show and Colbert Report skits it may be educational in that way of recent/contemporary history. I think that the movie is fair in that it shows ALL the coverage - both the bytes in the various cable news coverage and things like Weiner's appearance on Lawrence O'Donnell where he was asked point blank "What's *wrong* with you?" - while showing Weiner in both the (semi good) early run-up when he started his campaign and, indeed, had a lead to start with, and then as he kept his composure much as he could while the second scandal blew up and wouldn't go away.
Could it have gone away? No, probably (or definitely) not, and the question of should or shouldn't he have dropped out of the race comes to mind. But the coverage of it all in this film is uncanny. At times you'll wonder how they got a camera in such a place, or how, up until the moment the filmmakers are told to get out of a room, they stay there until told to leave (or on the flip-side the very funny moment when in a car the director happens to ask a particular touchy question and Weiner can't help but go off on the guy, like "Is THIS what you mean by 'fly on the wall?') A lot of the humor that does come up is in that pitch-black, uncomfortable way that goes far beyond anything you'd ever see on Louie or Curb Your Enthusiasm. And the cringing isn't always funny - sometimes it comes down to the look two people have with nothing being said out loud and everything being said in the eyes.
One of the things that is hard to not come away with, whether by the end you feel some modicum of sympathy (or, hell, even empathy if that's possible) with Weiner from this period of time, is that he's not your average politician or, I should say, one that is the usual type we might think of as a politician. Usually they come off as stiff, bought and paid for or at the least handled to such a degree as to seem inhuman, or try to come off as "wholesome" and yet say the most monstrous things.
Weiner was/is a liberal, but you get someone who can talk in reasoned tones except when, well, things p*** him off (his entree into the spotlight came in his time as Congressman when he exclaimed "I will NOT yield" during a debate on a 9/11 responders bill), or when he is confronted by someone. We see him not back down from people, whether it's hard questions at a City Island campaign stop or a heckler in a deli. The guy is tough, and yet there's also a self-deprecating humor at times. And he'll even watch things like the O'Donnell clip - extended version online, of course - just to get motivated to start his day. What a pair of... oh, nevermind.
And yet at the same time what I love about the movie is that it shows that he can't escape, and really liked to be a part of, the whole 'game' of it, the act. When he does an ad for TV it feels like he's acting for the camera, and seeing the footage from this ad in its finished form intercut with his wife sitting by the side looking a mixture of bored and (maybe) frustrated is astonishing. It's difficult not to leave the movie with some judgment of him, and at the same time the trick of this is that it presents him in (as much as possible) the full, er, 'package' (sorry, puns are unavoidable, I tried). The point is if you like to see the nitty gritty political maneuvering and how a mind works in the midst of a scandal, this is a serious delight (both serious and delightful).
PS: Recently Weiner's retracted how he feels in the documentary and wishes he hadn't made the movie and won't watch it. The latter is fair, while the former is... well, who knows.
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