Another life time ago, I was standing in a bathroom putting on mascara. The man I was sleeping with - who was in a long term relationship with someone who wasn’t me - stood in the doorway watching .
Not quite in an afterglow sense, but it was pleasantly post-coital and I had assumed the silence was relaxed. Pleasant.
“I really miss her,” he said. Using her name. In case I hadn’t seen her tampons in the bathroom cabinet. Her shoes in the bedroom.
In my imagination I have an amazing poker face. A delusion hard to hold when you’re staring right at your own trying-not-to-cry face while blackening your lashes to keep your hands busy.
The moment Ralph’s heart breaks in the “I Love Lisa” episode of _The Simpsons _comes close, but of course, it’s too theatrical, too… animated. Huma Abedin‘s however, is pretty much perfect.
The documentary follows former Democratic Congressman, Anthony Weiner’s post-scandal run in the New York mayoral race. He fails deplorably, attributable to a second round of scandals involving more selfies, more text messages and more complete and utter stupidity.
His travelling companion for the trainwreck - potentially unwillingly, but that’s another story - is Huma. A political powerhouse in her own right, she’s The Good Wife here, standing by her no-good bastard husband. In the muck, in the mire.
There’s lots of scenes where the audience is brutalised by her subtle agony, but the one that sticks - the one that shatters - sees Weiner ask for her advice about how to handle questions about his indiscretions.
Throughout the scandals and now in the wake of the doco, people are probing Huma. Why would she stay, why would she allow herself to be filmed, why would she subject herself to such - to use her word - indignity.
Not uninteresting questions. Not hard questions to answer either if you’ve ever fallen - in love, in lust, in marriage - with this man.
Very quickly can we - I add Huma, I add myself to this “we” - become enamoured with this guy. This accessibly attractive, quick-witted, moderately charming man who seems to enjoy the company of women and they him. And you get drawn in, of course, because apparently you - and you alone - can see a vulnerability there which makes him a little fragile and a little needy and, afterall, you’re totally suited to cradle him to your bosom and… I digress.
So when this guy trips and accidentally takes a photo of himself clutching his penis, or stumbles say, and slips his way into a whole new vagina, you kinda always expected it to happen. More than this, there’s part of you that likes he’s still wanted, still vulnerable and you’re pretty much convinced you’re essential to his rehabilitation. Again.
Except that it all hurts. A lot. And you’ll probably hate yourself throughout the story.
Huma, in fact, is the most interesting part of the the documentary but, of course, gets relegated to a supporting role. Her task largely centers on contorting her face into a range of I’m-okay/I’m-fucking-dying-here composites while Weiner gobbles the screentime.
Weiner is great on many levels and currently sits at #2 on my best of 2016 list. It’s an excellent insight into how scandal politics works. A great opportunity to have yet another conversation about whether what a politician does with their genitals makes a difference in public office. It’s also beautifully revealing about those aspects of masculinity we choose to revere being the very same ones we’re quick to condemn and dissociate from.
Weiner is also another The Newsroom-like insight into a media who, on one hand, loves to take the moral high ground and condemn Carlos Danger-like antics while on the other hand legitimises as newsworthy women like Sydney Leathers, the Vegas dealer whose texts with Weiner became the scandal. A media who loves to cultivate feelings of personal betrayal in fickle public.
Double standards much.
My full house, Memorial Day audience was laughing wildly. They apparently appreciated the film on a very different level than me. My single laugh - had all on my lonesome - involved a very eager staffer elaborately plotting a route for Weiner to deliver his concession speech while dodging Leathers.
The rest of the time I was watching through slightly parted fingers.
A devastating debacle definitely deserving of your dollars.
After its limited and sold-out run at the Melbourne International Film Festival, Weiner will be showing in a short season at ACMI from September 1.