Huma. She is magnificent, a blaze of chic and slender sanity. When Huma Abedin appears on screen in Weiner, the new documentary by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg about her husband, former congressman, mayoral candidate, and shanda for the goyim Anthony Weiner, her beauty and power and elegance dare the waters to roil around her. The waters take her up on it.
The film picks up the tale of Anthony Weiner after he has already risen, a spirited, take-no-prisoners congressman, and fallen, yet another politician caught in an embarrassing sex scandal. He’s the New York politician whose pictures of his genitalia, shared with several women he never met, ruined his career. Twice.
Weiner is a baffled and sympathetic film, allowing Weiner’s manic charm to lull us into amnesia and Huma’s quiet, almost sleepy poise to wake us up to political and emotional reality. Even when Huma is taut and strained, there is something reassuring about her, something naturally composed. In one scene, when Weiner is on the rise again, running a strong campaign in 2013 for mayor of New York, the camera observes the husband and wife as a new scandal breaks. Behind them, TV screens glare and news shows feature a blown-up cell phone portrait of Anthony naked; then, another photo: the candidate’s crotch, close up, his proudly displayed penis digitally scrambled like a whistleblower’s face. Anthony is fretting, talking, strategizing. Huma paces, arms folded, silent, shaking her head, shaking her head, slowly shaking her head. The look she gives him—it’s eloquent: stunned, superior, dismissive, disbelieving, disgusted, unsurprised. It is a wifely look.
The way I was able to remember the use of the Latin gerundive in high school was the word “pudendum”—that of which one ought to be ashamed. In this time of cultural immodesty, the pudenda are no longer inherently shameful. But getting caught with your pants down is, and Anthony Weiner became a national joke, an international joke, when his distended underpants first made their way from one woman’s cell phone to every corner of the Internet and beyond—newspapers, cable TV news, late-night talk shows, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report.
The film has a number of clips I remember laughing at. But with respect to Anthony Weiner as a human being,…
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