×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘Weiner’

A rollicking and never-dull insider's view of a political campaign that leaves fascinating questions unanswered.

With:
Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, Barbara Morgan, Amit Bagga, Sydney Leathers.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5278596/

“A man is more than his name” is the somewhat simplistic message of “Weiner,” a fly-on-the-wall account of scandal-plagued former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s failed 2013 bid to become mayor of New York. Filmmakers Josh Kriegman (a former Weiner aide) and Elyse Steinberg utilize their seemingly unfettered access to deliver a rollicking and never-dull insider’s view of a political campaign in crisis mode, but the most fascinating questions surrounding Weiner’s epic fall remain unanswered. Primarily of interest to political junkies, and utterly lacking in any kind of explosive revelations, “Weiner” should expect a modest turnout at theatrical polls this summer ahead of a Showtime premiere in October.

For anyone who doesn’t know the pun-ready headlines that accompanied Weiner’s initial fall from grace, the pic opens with a quick primer. After provocative selfies, sext messages and other illicit communications with various women were made public, he resigned from Congress in 2011, publicly apologized for the shame he caused himself, his family and his constituents and vowed to change his ways.

By the time Weiner kicked off his mayoral run in May of 2013 — the point when the filmmakers enter the picture — it looked like those scandals were behind him, and a good chunk of the film positions Weiner as the ideal political animal. Even as the media hound him about his past behavior, his command of the issues and steadfast commitment to progressive beliefs win over voters willing to give him a second chance. In multiple instances, crowds loudly boo rival candidates trying to capitalize on Weiner’s tabloid past or position themselves as morally superior.

As Weiner confesses to the camera, he wants to get back into politics not just for himself but also his wife, Huma Abedin, whose reputation was similarly dragged through the mud. Much of the advance buzz around “Weiner” has focused on Abedin, who has worked with Hillary Clinton for years. But for anyone either fretting or hoping that Weiner’s wife might say or do something on camera that could help or hurt Clinton, the bottom line is that Abedin remains a highly intriguing woman of mystery here, as calm and composed as her husband is argumentative and unpredictable.

That becomes especially frustrating as Weiner’s second scandal — the one that ultimately derails his mayoral dreams — breaks. Even more sordid photos and texts surface, all sent after he had supposedly learned his lesson. (The timeline of exactly when the indiscretions happened in relation to his mayoral campaign are still fuzzy, and Weiner does nothing to clarify that on camera.)

As the campaign plays damage control, Abedin participates in a press conference to demonstrate her loyalty. Behind closed doors her reactions are a mix of awkward silences, thousand-yard stares and an occasional eye roll. Why does Abedin stand by her man? The question is never really asked or answered. But she offers full support during a meeting with Weiner’s aggrieved staffers, cooly advising battle-scarred communications director Barbara Morgan to “think of the optics” if she’s photographed leaving the building looking upset.

Abedin’s level-headed control of the situation stands in a stark contrast to Weiner’s hot-headed indignation. His annoyance at late-night comedians and headline writers cracking wise with lame jokes inspired by his last name is fully justified, but he betrays little self-awareness of the part he played in reigniting a media firestorm, even in a talking-head interview conducted long after the real-time campaign footage. And he certainly doesn’t offer any insight into what motivated him to assume the preposterous online identity “Carlos Danger” and engage in the same behavior that nearly cost him his political career.

Instead, Weiner emerges as a master of changing the conversation, and “Weiner” eventually feels rigged to make audiences empathize with a man too prideful to own up to his own mistakes. When Kriegman asks Weiner if he thinks losing the support of voters has less to do with silly sex talk than with the lies on top of lies in the cover-up that followed, Weiner shrugs the notion off and claims the media is looking for a villain.

There’s something endearing about his refusal to back down — he stays in the race he was once leading and ultimately finishes with less than 5% of the vote — but also exhausting. When cable news pundit Lawrence O’Donnell glibly asks Weiner “What’s wrong with you?” during a live interview, Weiner barks back like a wild animal ripping into his prey. Watching the interview again online the next day, Weiner smiles at his performance, while Abedin shakes her head and walks off camera.

Given everything that happened, it’s a question worth exploring. Perhaps another film will find the answer.

Sundance Film Review: 'Weiner'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 24, 2016. Running time: 96 MIN.

Production: (Documentary) A Sundance Selects release of an Edgeline Films production in association with Motto Pictures. Produced by Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg. Executive producers, 
Julie Goldman, 
Christopher Clements, 
Carolyn Hepburn, Lily Fan. Co-­producers, 

Elizabeth Delaune Warren, 
Sean McGing. Co-executive producers, 
Barbara Delaune Warren, 
James Rees

, Hilary Verbuch.

Crew: Directed by Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg. Written by Kriegman, Steinberg, 
Eli Despres. Camera (color, HD), Kriegman; editor, Despres; music, Jeff Beal; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Tom Paul.

With: Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, Barbara Morgan, Amit Bagga, Sydney Leathers.

More Film

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' Cracks $3.7 Million on Thursday Night

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” cracked $3.7 million at 3,200 North American sites on Thursday night. Universal’s “Glass” brings together the narratives of Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable,” which was released in 2000, and 2016’s “Split.” The supernatural thriller unites stars Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, and Sarah Paulson. The film is set to open in 3,841 [...]

  • Indie Sales Acquires Berlinale-Bound Coming-of-Age Drama

    Indie Sales Acquires Berlinale-Bound Coming-of-Age Drama 'A Colony'

    Paris-based company Indie Sales has acquired the coming-of-age drama “A Colony” which will be making its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in the generation section. “A Colony” marks the feature debut of Geneviève Dulude-De Celles, whose short film “The Cut” won a prize at Sundance in 2014. More Reviews TV Review: 'Conversations With [...]

  • Bac Launches 'Alice And The Mayor,'

    Bac Launches 'Alice and the Mayor,' 'My Days of Glory' at UniFrance Rendez-Vous (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based Bac Films is launching a slate of new acquisitions at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris, including Nicolas Pariser’s “Alice And The Mayor” with Fabrice Luchini, and Antoine de Bary’s concept comedy “My Days of Glory” with Vincent Lacoste. “Alice And The Mayor” stars Luchini as Paul Théraneau, a prominent French mayor who has run [...]

  • Viacom International Studios New Management Structure

    Federico Cuervo to Head New Management Structure at Viacom International Studios

    Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) –Americas has announced a new management structure for its fast-expanding Viacom International Studios (VIS) which will see Federico Cuervo filling the role of senior vice president-head of VIS, reporting to Darío Turovelzky, newly named SVP of global contents at VIMN Americas. Turovelzky remains co-chief of VIMN. Under the new structure, [...]

  • Berlin: Edko Films Picks up Zhang

    Berlin: Edko Films Picks Up Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second’

    Hong Kong studio Edko Films has picked up international rights to “One Second,” the newest movie by top Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The film will have its world premiere in competition in Berlin, it was announced this week. “One Second” is pitched as Zhang’s personal love letter to cinema, and as a return to his [...]

  • Sygeplejeskolen sc 205

    Claudia Boderke, Lars Mering Talk SF Studios ‘The New Nurses’

    The inevitable comparison for SF Studios’ “The New Nurses,” at least from a Danish broadcast perspective, is “Something’s Rockin,’” another 2018 TV 2 Charlie show which was retro but forward-looking. “Something’s Rockin’” described the birth of an independent radio with culture in Denmark. Produced by SF Studios’ Senia Dremstrup (“Norskov”),  “The New Nurses” talks cleverly [...]

  • Robert Redford

    Robert Redford to Receive Honorary Cesar Award

    Legendary American actor and director Robert Redford is set to receive an honorary Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, at the 44th annual Cesar ceremony, which will take place Feb. 22 in Paris. “An iconic actor, an exceptional director, a passionate producer, founder and president of Sundance, the most revered festival of independent films [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content