It was kind of ironic when the sold-out, sneak-peek screening of Weiner sputtered out, turning into a glitchy, hallucinatory version of itself at Rooftop Films’ Industry City screening last week. While everyone else seemed to be weathering the drizzle just fine, the projector wasn’t so resilient.
Fortunately for us, we’ve got a whole season of Rooftop Films to look forward to, including a couple of collabs with House of Vans, both of which were announced last week and feature Danny Brown (in the flesh and on screen) and a doc on the East-LA punk scene. Poor Anthony Weiner (who I’m beginning to feel bad for, really), on the other hand, won’t be seeing any more Rooftop appearances– as far as we know, anyway. But, starting next week, you can catch Weiner at Nitehawk Cinema, when the theater starts offering a very delicious (and very poetic) opportunity to feast your eyes and your mouth on Weiner in all his bulging glory.
On June 3, Weiner opens at Williamsburg’s premiere tippling cinema, Nitehawk, where ticket-holders (for $12) will have the opportunity to dine on Weiner-themed food and knock back a special tribute-cocktail dedicated to the ex-Congressman. Of course, Nitehawk would be outta their minds if they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to serve up a Weiner-inspired wiener– their’s includes “a bacon wrapped beef-and-pork dog from The Brooklyn Hot Dog Company, teriyaki glaze, spicy pineapple salsa, served on a Martin’s potato roll.”
The cocktail, affectionately dubbed “The Carlos Danger” is also not to be missed– it includes Breuckelen 77 wheat whiskey, ancho chili liqueur, cold-brew coffee and chicory, toasted almond syrup, and a side of chili cream. Nitehawk’s beverage director Matt Walker, explained in a press release that the drink was “inspired by the mass quantities of iced coffee consumed by Weiner and his staff over the course of the documentary, and by politicians in general.” (The Carlos Danger sounds an awful lot like our own obsession: the late, great Coffee Seltzer which was slurped by countless hungover brunchers at the now-closed Northern Spy.)
The former Congressman’s 25-year political career– from Schumer underling to City Council member, U.S Representative and, finally, New York City mayoral candidate– first experienced serious shrinkage after he made a major slip up (or shall we say, just-the-tip up?) and accidentally tweeted a photo of his bulge (thankfully it was sheathed in a pair of boxer shorts). Weiner subsequently resigned from his post.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Weiner the documentary caught the once-disgraced politician at the moment he returned to politics after that first unseemly incident and announced his candidacy for mayor. While victory was something of a stretch, you can feel it in the tentative excitement of Weiner, his staffers, and his wife (Huma Abedin, a political staffer with a long history astride Hillary Clinton).
The story is, of course, a fantastic one on its own, but Weiner derives much of its genius from timing. First, we witness Weiner’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes and re-ascendance to that particularly strange state of limbo in which public figures have achieved a semblance of forgiveness and trust by their constituency and by the media, but remain easy targets for jokes. (But can you blame us? The opportunities for puns are pretty much endless.)
Everything comes crashing down, of course, when Weiner’s wiener makes a second appearance. This time, news surfaces that he’s been pursuing relationships with women whom he’d met online (to the extent that a “relationship” involves sexting and dick pics). The punchline? Weiner introduced himself to these ladies by his sexy alias, Carlos Danger.
But the doc (what little bit this reporter saw of it before rain struck) kept me enthralled even before the big turning point hit. The filmmakers (Director Josh Kriegman used to work for Weiner) have an innate talent for zeroing in on the smallest of facial expressions, stemming from an ability to read people well. For Weiner, it’s his pained looks, awkward glances, and frustrated grimaces that are ultimately very telling. Whereas the people around him look at the guy with intermittent confusion, disbelief, as well as sometimes hurt and other times mocking expressions.
There’s a scene, for example, when Huma’s grave stares turn to heartfelt doe eyes, and eventually devolve into gushing tears, as she watches her husband speak to a small crowd and effusively praise his wife. Weiner seems to be going too far, and is clearly making up for something. There are hints, on the other hand, that Huma perhaps hasn’t quite forgiven her husband. “I love my city, and I believe in my husband,” she tells the same crowd. But it’s the human subtleties captured by the filmmakers that demonstrate an unwavering, hawk-like focus on the candidate and set the story apart from any other recap of his political career. Weiner’s face often twitches, and becomes distorted as his staffers break less-than-stellar news to him, and he flinches when constituents ask him about the ween tweet. As viewers, we’re closer to Weiner than we’ve ever been– beyond the screaming matches on C-SPAN, underneath the sheen of thick political makeup– and truly have the opportunity to see a realer, more nuanced view of the candidate.
The overall story of Weiner’s rise to political star and his tragic, silly, and ultimately very male double-arced fall from glory, make for a ridiculous and wildly entertaining tale that reflects on contemporary politics in the U.S., the downfalls of social media, and the fast-paced news cycle that keeps the whole thing churning. But above all, it’s Anthony Weiner’s self-deprecating, hilarious, and often tragic behavior– divulged by the doc’s hyper-focus on minutiae and imperfections– that reveal him to be something that’s wholly the opposite of a politician– human.