You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

'Weiner' is riveting fly-on-the-wall doco

Associated Press Associated Press 22/05/2016 Jocelyn Noveck

There are lots of fly-on-the-wall documentaries. But occasionally there's one that makes you want to ask the fly: Just HOW did you get onto that wall, and how did you manage to stay there?

In the case of 'Weiner', the compulsively watchable new film about Anthony Weiner and the implosion of his 2013 New York mayoral run amid a revival of his sexting scandal, part of the answer is clear.

Director Josh Kriegman once worked for Weiner, who was forced to resign his congressional seat in 2011. And Weiner clearly hoped Kriegman and co-director Elyse Steinberg would be documenting an inspiring comeback.

At first, it seemed like they were, as Weiner chipped away at public scepticism.

Then it all came crashing down, as more lurid photos and text exchanges emerged, some that occurred after Weiner's resignation.

And for some reason, Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin - a longtime top aide to Hillary Clinton, and current vice-chair of her presidential campaign - let the filmmakers keep going.

As Kriegman himself asks at one low point, inches away from the miserable couple in their own kitchen:

"Why are you letting me film this?"

Why, indeed. But it makes for riveting filmmaking - as a portrait of a campaign in crisis, of a fascinatingly flawed politician, and especially of a marriage.

We begin with a chastened Weiner, at the end of the race, reflecting: "I guess the punchline is true about me. I did the things," he acknowledges. But he adds, sadly: "I did a lot of other things, too."

And the film, which seeks neither to judge nor ignore Weiner's actions, sets out to show it.

A prelude includes footage of Weiner's impassioned speeches in Congress, on behalf of 9/11 responders, for example.

We see why voters liked him. Then we see that Twitter image of bulging underwear, the humiliating media coverage, the resignation.

Two years later, though, Weiner's ready to try again.

The early days of his mayoral campaign are encouraging.

We meet the campaign's energetic young volunteers. We see the couple making fundraising calls.

Suddenly Weiner's leading in the polls.

And then the other shoe drops. We see campaign staffers in battle mode. Abedin's face is drained of its smile. Nervously, she tells a packed news conference that she loves her husband, and they're moving forward.

But of course they can't. Weiner's besieged with scandal questions.

Then on Election Day (spoiler alert: he loses!) Weiner's erstwhile sexting partner, Sydney Leathers, seeks to confront him. Aides conspire to avoid her by detouring through a McDonald's. In an excruciating exchange, Abedin is heard saying to her husband: "I am not going to face the indignity of being accosted by this woman."

Weiner and Abedin apparently haven't seen the film. One wonders if they regret allowing the directors such intimate access. Either way, the filmmakers have done a compelling job as flies on that wall.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon