Thursday, June 16, 2016

Anthony Weiner's failed comeback

What to make of Anthony Weiner, the former New York Congressman and mayoral hopeful who wrecked his career with a sexting scandal? I didn't quite know before I saw the documentary Weiner, and I still don't. Still, I found the documentary about Weiner's attempted comeback intensely watchable. Weiner works on multiple levels, as a look at a ferociously driven man trying to overcome his past, as a portrait of a strained marriage and as a testament to the stark absurdity of our politics. I suppose I don't need to remind you that these days our political climate regularly devolves into a cacophonous mixture of issues, personal failings, posturing and media glare. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg received what looks like near-unlimited access to Weiner during the 2013 primary campaign in which he tried to become the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City. As he seeks reinstatement into public life, Weiner relies heavily his wife, Huma Abedin, a woman whose boilerplate description lists her as "a long-time aide to Hillary Clinton." As Weiner unfolds, relations between Abedin and her husband hit rough spots, particularly when another round of sexting was (you'll pardon the expression) exposed. Never shy about expressing himself, Weiner tries to cling to his views on issues, even as the world around him collapses. It's a bit like a passenger on the Titanic focusing on the elegant dinner ware as the ship takes on catastrophic amounts of water. There's a sadness to Weiner because watching his self-destruction is as sobering as it is compelling. Weiner may have been trying to prove that there are second acts in American life. After watching Weiner, it's difficult to imagine that he'll get a chance at a third.

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