Scandal-ridden politician Anthony Weiner lets the cameras keep rolling
A politician with a sex scandal is hardly worth the batting of eyelashes these days. One with two sex scandals? Eh, it’s been done before. But a politician who lets cameras keep filming him, his high-powered political wife and their baby son while the second wave of his scandal breaks and all in the middle of a New York mayoral election? That’s a guy you need to see.
“S—. This is the worst. This is the worst,” says former congressman Anthony Weiner in the film’s opening scene. “I’m doing a documentary of my scandal.” The timing is interesting: It’s 2013 and Weiner is about to kick off his campaign for mayor of New York City. The candidate’s first political scandal broke in 2011, at the height of his Congressional career, when he accidentally publicly shared an explicit picture of himself, meant for a woman with whom he’d communicated on Twitter.
Soon, we meet Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife and the mother of his young son, Jordan. She’s a powerhouse in her own right, an aide to Hillary Clinton, and a well-connected woman in government circles. When she stands before an audience saying “I love my city and I love my husband,” you believe her, and know that her word counts for something.
But it isn’t long before the second wave of the scandal hits, and Weiner gets positively surreal. Any normal person would pull out of the campaign and work feverishly to repair the damage to his marriage. Anthony Weiner is not that man. He doubles down on the campaign, working even harder to win votes, taking wildly uncomfortable questions from reporters, and even asking Abedin to continue her public appearances for him. The cameras roll all the while.
It’s important to take a break here to understand something: There is nothing preventing Weiner from yelling “Cut!” on the whole production. He could just as easily escort the directors and their cameras from his life as he could order lunch. He does not do that. Instead, he allows them to keep filming, even as Sydney Leathers, the woman with whom he’s exchanged numerous explicit phone calls, stalks his campaign office and shows up outside his election night party, where Abedin is also expected.
To be able peer this deeply into a man’s psyche is unusual, but to have such unfettered access to a candidate, his staff and his family in the midst of international mockery is unprecedented. What’s more is that we never forget that there are real people involved. There’s a real marriage on the line in Weiner, a real child at the heart of that union. While our minds puzzle over the candidate’s antics, our hearts also go out to the people around him who clearly ache.
Then – because Weiner can’t help fighting on live television with a cable news host, then also can’t help cackling over the footage later at home, just can’t help being Weiner – we eventually meander back to our original thought: What the hell is wrong with that guy?