Not sure how much he mattered outside of New York, but Anthony Weiner was a huge story there, where he was first a senator, but stepped down because of sending sexual texts to a woman while married. Some of his texts, which became public and made him a target of public ridicule, featured him characterizing himself as an alter ego called “Carlos Danger.”
He ran for mayor of NYC, and actually managed to overcome the fallout of his scandal to become the front-runner, when another round of sexual texts came forward. His wife, Huma Abedin, a close advisor to Hillary Clinton, stood by him through the first scandal, and stuck around as a few more dribbled out, but finally dumped him when it became clear that not had he not stopped sending texts to young girls, he was still going strong. In the last straw, one of his texts featured a photo of his hard dick [in underpants] while his toddler child lay nearby.
So it’s kind of a case of sexual addiction, and what I was interested in watching was just how do they talk about it and deal with it, especially when it becomes clear that he is still doing it… ruining his brilliant professional prospects as well as his excellent marriage. The movie covers the period after he stepped down from the senate and during his mayoral campaign, until he finally has to step down from the campaign, but ends before his wife walked out and the final images were released. One gets the sense that he agreed to the documentary as a way to follow his brilliant campaign, and it morphed into something else when he derailed his career so visibly.
Weiner never talks about the texting or sexting or anything direct, he mentions “the thing” or other euphemisms that I can’t remember right now. His attitude about it [he is an extremely brash person anyway] is that he wants to move past the topic as quickly as possible, and that it’s ridiculous that he has to address it at all. In the film, we see him have to address the topic with his staff of campaign assistants, never really apologizing, but strategizing how they’re going to absorb it and love on. So in the movie you’re watching the frozen faces of people around them as they are confronted with shock after shock, knowing they are tied to an albatross and wondering how bad will it get, and when they’ll finally have to quit, as Weiner himself tries to just power through it all with the attitude that “people make mistakes” and anyone who brings it up is really just kind of a jerk anyway.
Most of the interest centers around Weiner himself, and seeing how he reacts in the face of all this public humiliation—and why he continues to engage in an activity he knows on some level will ruin him—but one whole major source of fascination is to see how his wife reacts to it all. She is shown as brilliant, beautiful and immensely talented, and for a lot of the movie you are watching her frozen face and stiff posture as she tries to get through each of these excruciating moments until she can get off camera. A lot of the film is watching Weiner respond to questions such as “what is wrong with you?” on television, him trying to strategize his way past his self-created crises, and his wife as she stands like a trapped animal, trying to tamp down her raging emotions until she can get off camera. At one point the documentarian even asks Weiner: “Why are you still talking to us?”
What’s missing, overtly at least, is any real discussion or insight into why Weiner keeps doing this, especially when it is obvious that he is knowingly driving his entire personal and professional life into ruin. You have to just watch what is offered and draw your own conclusions. I must say I had a somewhat dim view of the filmmakers as the film went on, as they seemed a bit opportunist to sign up for a run-of-the-mill political documentary, then switch it to a document of their subject’s destruction. When they ask why he’s still talking to them, it has the tone of them essentially calling him an idiot, and strikes one as a bit egregious, especially as they’re already making an entire film documenting what an idiot he is. But that is the appeal of this film, finding out: how can this guy act like such an absolute idiot? What is so great about the thrill of sexting that he’s willing to ruin his whole life over it? You don’t find out a concrete answer, but you do get to see a ton of people looking mortified.