Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
American politics is replete with bizarreness, but the story of Anthony Weiner takes some beating. The Democratic congressman hit global headlines in 2011 when a photograph of his genitals appeared on Twitter. Denials that he had posted the image quickly fell apart, along with his reputation, as numerous earlier dick-pic peccadilloes were splashed across the media.
In this engrossing, highly entertaining fly-on-the-wall film we meet Weiner two years after his resignation, in the early stages of a redemptive bid to become the mayor of New York City. He has rebuilt his relationship with wife, Huma Abedin, the top aide to Hillary Clinton. He is politically reinvigorated. Early polls put him at the top of the Democratic pack. But then the wheels fall off: more pics emerge, sent – crucially – well after Weiner’s public apology. The tabloid circus returns. Weiner insists he’ll plough on, as members of his team revolt. Abedin stares, disbelieving. Somehow, the camera is allowed to go on rolling too – even as the campaign culminates in unimaginable ignominy, with Weiner scurrying through a McDonald’s to evade ‘Pineapple’, the code name for an aspiring porn star who received Weiner-pics and is keen to leverage some publicity. The reality for Weiner is less The West Wing, more Curb Your Enthusiasm.
For all his cringe-making hubris, however, the film depicts a more complex Weiner than the media caricature. Abedin, meanwhile, is enthralling: a picture of stillness, the antithesis of a man who, by his own admission, possesses a ‘virtually unlimited ability to fuck up things’. — Toby Manhire