“The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.” – Marshall McLuhan.
The quote that opens this engaging documentary on former US Senator Anthony Weiner is in stark contrast to Shakespeare’s opinion on “What’s in a name.” Unfortunately for Weiner, his name would become synonymous with a scandal that destroyed his political career not once, but twice.
An opening montage shows the senator during his glory days. An energetic man with an unbridled passion for defending his beliefs. He was a man whose convictions you could admire regardless of which side of the aisle you stand. Then in late May, 2011, he accidentally posted a sexually explicit image of himself to his public Twitter account, an image he was trying to privately send to one of his followers. Weinergate was born and within months he had resigned from Congress.
This film picks up nearly two years later as Weiner is building support for a NYC Mayoral election. Asking the people to give him a second chance, he quickly amasses a huge following and impressive campaign funding. The tides have turned and Weiner is throbbing with ambition. Unfortunately, his sexting scandal rears its ugly head once again, and his world begins to crumble beneath him.
Directors Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg wisely take a completely neutral stance, only occasionally asking him direct questions. They provide us with a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the rise and fall of this man that’s equally fascinating, heartbreaking and infuriating. We see those who believed in him slowly pull away and leave, betrayal and disappointment visible on their faces. We see how vicious and cruel the media is, and the effect it has not only on him, but his wife and associates as well. It’s sickening to see the strange obsession the media has with his sexual transgressions over what he actually has to say or offer, even prior to the second allegations. This disgust is further amplified on the night of the NYC election when the woman from the second scandal shows up in an attempt to confront him on camera.
While obviously 100% at fault for the repercussions of his poor choices, after watching everything Anthony Weiner goes through, it’s hard not to pity him. Everyone makes mistakes in their personal lives of varying magnitude, but the circus that erupts when these mistakes involve a public figure is appalling. This is the perfect film for anyone considering a career in politics.
Note: Anthony Weiner can most recently be seen in 2015’s “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!”