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One of the unsung and unheralded movie treasures of 2003, 'Shattered
Glass' tells the fascinating story of Stephen Glass, one of the top
reporters for The New Republic in the 1990's, who rocked the media
world when he had to finally confess that he had fabricated many of his
stories. 'Shattered Glass' plays like a modern Greek tragedy, centered
on a man of great talent and potential brought down by his own internal
weaknesses. Glass was only 24 when he fell from grace; prior to that,
he was a hot shot reporter who, in the highly competitive world of high
stakes journalism, kept looking for that little added edge to make his
stories saleable. For a number of years, Glass managed to slip those
stories past his editors and fact-checkers without being discovered.
However, in the spring of 1998, his world came crashing down around him
after an internet magazine became suspicious of a story he had written
about a computer hacker who, it turns out, never actually existed.
'Shattered Glass,' which is based on an article by Buzz Bissinger, succeeds as both a complex character study and a top notch thriller. The film never gives us any easy answers as to just why Glass put his journalistic integrity and career on the line by perpetrating these frauds. As portrayed in the film, Glass is a paradoxical mixture of both arrogance and insecurity, a smooth manipulator who can charm and sweet talk his way into getting people to like and trust him while at the same time employing those same skills to get himself out of tough situations. Eventually, however, the act runs out of steam and he is exposed for who and what he really is. Yet, who, indeed, is he? Is Glass simply a pathological liar? Is he a stressed-out, overworked 'kid' trying desperately to keep his head above water in the cutthroat world of professional journalism? Is he merely a smooth-talking, unethical charmer who knows what he wants and will stop at nothing to get it? Could it be that he is some or all of these things at the same time? The fact that the film never fully answers these questions is what pulls us so deeply into the drama. Moreover, Hayden Christensen gives a superb performance as Glass, making the character both smarmy and vulnerable, repellant and sympathetic all at the same time. In addition to Christensen, the film is filled with brilliant, subtle performances by Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny, Hank Azaria and many others.
Superbly written and directed by Billy Ray, 'Shattered Glass' is one of the most suspenseful films of recent times, far more gripping than most so-called thrillers because the film is dealing with real-world issues of integrity and ethics. We watch with morbid fascination the slow unraveling of a man's 'crime' and character, as Glass becomes more and more ensnared in a web of his own making. The step-by-step process by which a promising young man's true nature is uncovered, then his reputation destroyed, becomes the stuff of classic tragedy.
Although The New Republic eventually recovered from this debacle, the filmmakers do not let the magazine off the hook quite so easily. The thing we are most struck by is how incredibly young the reporters at the magazine were at the time (we are told their average age was 26!). How such unseasoned writers came to play so prominent a part in so major and venerable a publication is indeed one of the great mysteries of the story - and one of the sharpest indictments leveled against the magazine by the makers of the film.
'Shattered Glass' is an ineffably sad film, one that makes us mourn the loss of a promising, talented individual who sowed the seeds of his own destruction (he is currently a lawyer). Yet it also inspires and uplifts us by reminding us that men of integrity will almost always triumph over men of little or no integrity in the long run. That's a truism worth remembering in this time of great moral confusion in which we find ourselves living. 'Shattered Glass' is not to be missed.
The public-at-large loves a good scandal, and in 1998, the scandal
involving Stephen Glass was a pretty darn good one. It turned out that
Glass, a young prodigy who was writing for several magazines, but
primarily for the prestigious 'New Republic' ('the in-flight magazine
of Air Force One') had fabricated some or all of 21 of his 41
well-received stories; a scandal that rocked the journalism world and
was picked up by the general public and was later repeated with Jayson
'Shattered Glass', co-written and directed by Billy Ray examines this true-life story, with Hayden Christensen playing Glass and Peter Sarsgaard as his editor, Chuck Lane. I have never seen Christensen's work in anything else until this point, and I was impressed by his acting chops. He was able to handily express Glass's desperate need for acceptance and his compulsive and repulsively cunning nature so well that the viewer, when faced with the dilemma of how to feel about this man, can only watch numbly as the train wreck that becomes his life careens further out of control. Sarsgaard, as usual, is fantastic as the fair and decent-minded Lane, the editor who first tries to help and protect Glass, but then, after digging deeper, finds that there is a lot more to the man than sloppy journalism.
It is actually surprising to me that 'Shattered Glass' became a film. I remember reading a Vanity Fair piece on Glass back when the scandal broke, and that, and the myriad other articles seemed to be sufficient exposure. The fact that 'Shattered Glass' was released five years after the scandal settled down, and that it is a compelling screenplay and film is a testimony to Ray's (a first time director) talent. 'Shattered Glass' is gut-wrenching in that it is difficult to watch because the viewer knows how deep Glass digs himself, and it's not necessarily fun to watch. 'Shattered Glass' is an intelligent, well-done film and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who appreciates that a film doesn't have to be showy in order to make an impact.
As the film opens we meet Stephen Glass, a rising star at "The New
magazine. He's sensitive, friendly and unfailingly polite. And, oh yeah,
I mention he was on everybody's hot list? He was being wooed by everyone
from "George Magazine" to "Harper's" to the "New York Times."
behind the Glass juggernaut was a compulsive liar who took everyone for a
downhill ride. You see, Glass fabricated over 20 stories, inventing
locations, times, dates, and companies.
Hayden Christensen was fabulous as the ingratiating/creepy Glass. As a CNN.com reviewer pointed out, this movie proves he can act.
Christensen's Glass is the ultimate likeable co-worker, who remembers everyone's birthday, knows how everyone takes their coffee and is so self-deprecatingly sweet that when things start unraveling you feel sorry for him. Despite his audacious lies and deceits, you like him and wonder why everyone is being so mean. Christensen walks the fine line between good and evil so well, you watch in amazement. You feel sorry for him, you're repulsed by him, you're embarrassed for him...
At times I turned to my friend and said "Man! Is this hard to watch." And it was.
Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Glass' editor, Chuck Lane, is wonderfully understated as the misunderstood editor. (For those at home who care, he's also really cute in that nerdy handsome way.)
The movie incisively exposes the world of journalism -- with it's big egos, pedantic copy editors, and ultra-competitive writers. I could see many of my co-workers (current and former) in the archetypes portrayed on screen (the braggart, the attention getter, the know-it-all, the guy who will split the most microscopic of hairs just for the heck of it).
It also brings home the incredible responsibility on the shoulders of journalists. It's easy to forget this responsibility in pursuit of personal glory or attention, but it's the reader who gets hurt. Everyone in the business of journalism should see this movie. But with its twists and turns and shocking (yet true!) events, it's a movie for anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Shattered Glass" tells the true story of Stephen Glass, a young upstart hotshot investigative journalist who wrote fiction or partial fiction and represented it as fact in the esteemed New Republic magazine and other publications. The film is a smartly pitched hardcore no frills drama which recounts events leading up to the explosive 1998 scandal created when the magazine went public by exposing itself as the unwitting purveyor of countless fraudulent articles. Most of the film is set in the offices of TNR magazine and the film is devoid of the usual Hollywood tinsel....no action, violence, sex, thrills, exotic locations, megastars, etc. However, for those into tales of ethics, journalism, and/or aberrant personalities, "Shattered Glass" may well be a spellbinder. Good stuff with plenty of critical plaudits for drama enthusiasts and those interested in investigative journalism. (B)
...Justice will be done. As an aspiring writer, one of the biggest
problems for me (as with all authors, I'm sure) is setting up a
believable story with realistic characters and motivations, but the
trick is being able to do so within the more realistic realm of
With that in mind, then think about this for a moment: A story about a 15 year-old computer hacker who brings a major software company to its knees would make for great entertainment at office meetings or parties. It has a realistic setting and a believable plot, with a kid who hacks into a company's database, and offers his services in preventing others from doing so, but first wants "X-Men" #1, a new car, and subscriptions to Playboy and Penthouse. This kid is then hailed as a hero within the hacker community, and he gets to sit back and revel in his newfound fame.
Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) had this story nailed down pat - characters and everything, but his problem was that he was not a fiction author, he was the premiere writer for an important technological magazine and nearly ran it into ground when it was discovered that he had fabricated more than half of his articles.
Make no mistake though, "Shattered Glass," which details Stephen Glass' devastating fall from grace when his deception is unearthed by the staffers of a rival magazine, is not at all a pleasant experience. I sometimes had to remember that this was based on a true story, and that a man lied to earn his fame.
I have to admit that by the time the credits began to roll, I was almost on the verge of tears, because I was so saddened and angry - saddened because Glass was on the surface, basically a good and well-liked person. I was angry because this well-liked man was also a fraud, and he deservedly got caught when he became trapped by his own elaborate deceptions.
The final 20 minutes are the most achingly difficult moments to sit through, as Glass' plans come apart at the seams, and we the audience are given front-row seats to his destruction. And we watch as Charles "Chuck" Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) sits back and (unsympathetically) bears witness to all of it. He is totally unflinching to Glass' pleas to drive him somewhere before he does something terrible to himself, like suicide.
It would also help to imagine yourself in Lane's position as an editor, to finally hear that you have been deceived by a kid, a bright kid nonetheless, and then find yourself faced with the difficult task of cleaning up the devastation. You then have to print a formal apology in the next issue of your magazine saying to your readers that they've been lied to.
An effective, powerful film - "Shattered Glass" - and I'm not sure that I could ever sit through it again.
Very enjoyable film, with good acting and great direction. Captivating
story of a true pathological liar, with no regard for anyone in his
Steven Glass is represented as a writer who is intent upon gaining money, fame, friends, or any combination thereof through deceipt in his work. His transformation from 'likeable kid' to 'loser' is astounding, in that he never really transforms.
The best part of the film is how your feelings towards Glass will change 180 degrees from the start, despite the film never altering his personality one bit along the way. The viewer is merely presented the story, while the most drama will come from your own emotional reaction to what you are discovering.
As the subject line above says, I have to admit to an insider's point
of view. I was an award-winning investigative reporter and editor
working in newspapers, magazines, wire services, radio, and
network-affiliate TV. I quit journalism in 1980 in large part because
of the ever-increasing number of talent-challenged first-year
"journalists" who wanted to be the next Woodward/Bernstein, and worse,
the willingness of management (especially in local television news) to
hire and even promote them. To be honest, however, I would have to add
that the low pay, true even at places like The New Republic, was a
major factor to an expectant father.
So I am sad to say that I completely buy the characterizations presented in this docudrama on Stephen Glass' time at that august magazine. The only thing that didn't ring true was that I never met anyone who had the time or inclination to be as considerate of his fellow journalists as Steve Glass apparently was. My wife pointed out that she never met one journalistic co-worker she would spend time with if she had the choice. I would admit that the nicest I knew were, at best, benign. I should add that I was NOT the nicest I knew. Even I didn't like me those days.
Getting back to the film, I can't speak to what actually motivated this particular person to fabricate 27 of 41 stories at a very major national magazine. The film suggests that he was too eager to please, and perhaps that is true. But that probably wasn't what motivated Jayson Blair (at the New York Times) or others who have recently been exposed as serial fabricators. Ambition unrestrained by ethics, unreasonable pressure to succeed due to premature promotions, other unknown and perhaps unknowable motivations... they probably figure into these sorts of disasters. But what is certainly true, and given very short shrift by the film, is the role journalistic management plays. To put a rather fine point to it, too many editors do not know how to, or perhaps just don't like to, do their jobs.
Too many times I see on national news programs statements treated as fact that somehow I can't believe were ever fact-checked. Just today I saw an episode of HBO's RealSports where an amazing statistic was mentioned: that a certain percentage (I believe about 4% but wasn't taking notes) of people who start playing poker as young kids go on to have gambling problems. I instantly asked myself: where did those statistics come from? Poker playing among the very young (pre-college-age) was probably a fairly rare thing before the past couple of years. How would they know today that 15 years ago such-and-such a percent would later have problems? If you understand statistics you would know that you can't find gambling addicts now, ask how many played poker as young kids, and extrapolate any useful estimate of future danger (100% of alcoholics once drank socially, but that doesn't mean 100% of social drinkers go on to become alcoholics). So did some editor at RealSports check this out? Why don't I believe someone did?
In writing this six-paragraph movie review, perhaps to be seen by no one, I checked things over time and again for accuracy. Oops: I misspelled Jayson Blair; fix it. Spelling errors no one cares about in this Internet-only story: check the entire piece in an external spell checker. In all I made almost two dozen changes. No one reading this will notice, or if they do, care. But that is what I do because I once was an editor.
It is this instinct for distrust of EVERYTHING anyone says or writes, including oneself and one's own work, that I believe is missing in far too many editors today. It is this shortcoming that allowed Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair et al to last so long before being exposed. It is a major weakness in journalism, and the lack of acknowledgement of this weakness is the only fault I found in this otherwise excellent film.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best films of the current season. It is
a movie that makes one think about our values, and above all, how low will
some people go to get their 15 minutes worth of fame by lying, cheating and
taking down the same institutions they are trying to break
The idea of this picture is based on actual facts, so there is nothing fabricated in it, as we are presented an ambitious man working his way up the editorial ladder. Stephen Glass, is such a person. This is a very intelligent individual who goes to extremes to write fiction and make the reader believe that what he is reading is fact. Heaven help us from the Stephen Glasses of the world.
Stephen Glass was the perfect person to be hired by the New Republic, a magazine for the elite. It is a magazine that prides itself in only running text and no pictures. Well, it would have helped the publication to have demanded photographic proof from Mr. Glass, as the receptionist clearly points out at the end.
The cast assembled by director Billy Ray for this film is flawless. The work of Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass, and Peter Sarsgaard as Jack Lane are brilliant. This was an inspired choice as both bring to the film the right tone, complementing one another. These actors will go far, no doubt.
The ensemble cast is also very effective. Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, Hank Azaria and Steve Zahn make you believe they are the people they are supposedly playing, which, in itself, is no small accomplishment.
The New Republic is one of many political comment magazines published
out of Washington DC. The writing/editing staff is small and young and
includes the humble and friendly Stephen Glass. His stories are often
very interesting and outrageous and he starts to attract attention from
other magazines for contributions. When writes about an on-line hacker
who attacked the website of a large software company he attracts the
attention of an internet-based journal and writer Adam Penenberg who
gets attacked by his editor for missing the story. However, as
Penenberg starts to look at the facts behind the story he starts to
suspect that the story is one large fabrication.
I only vaguely remember the original breaking of this story and am not aware of the full facts behind the story but I was interested enough to go and see this film when it was released at the weekend. The film opens with Glass giving a talk to a class back at his old school where he learnt his trade, this is then used as a tool to give background on both him and the job he does. This works pretty well even if it is a little confusing as to when it is happening (a fact not understood until the end). The main thrust of the film is the gradual exposure of the lies that Glass has been perpetrated within his stories. In this regard it works pretty well as a drama with a good story made all the more interesting and engaging by being true. It never really ignites into being a thriller and it misses a few opportunities to really be gripping but it still performs well as a good solid film perhaps it was a decision not to stick in more shouting or acting fireworks, it was the right decision but I'm sure some audiences will expect shouting and fireworks.
The one moment I did feel that the film missed out was where Chuck picks several editions off the shelf and starts to realize the extent of the lies that they have been publishing: that scene wasn't dramatic and it wasn't convincing, that should have been a lot more dramatic but this is only one scene in the whole film. Like I said, some people will find this film a bit slow and lacking in pace but for me it was the story that drove the film as opposed to theatrical tricks. The cast help the film a great deal, even if many of them are barely more than cameos. Christensen's performance worried me at the start because it seemed to be a bit cheesy but after 15 minutes I realized that this was the point. His Glass is manipulative and deceitful to the point where it is an act that he delivers naturally it was a difficult character to do and, despite him not being showy, he gets it bang on and he delivers the same character throughout while just allowing the audience's perception of him to change. Sarsgaard actually turns out to have the lion's share of the film and he gets the showiest moments of shouting he is good and acts as our eyes. Sevingy is a real good actress and does well with her few scenes. The rest of the cast is well padded with famous faces who all deliver well with the little they have. Azaria is good and is given a good character (who died in real life covering the war in Iraq), Zahn manages to not be an annoying pr*ck a feat in itself, but Dawson's presence was a mystery to me. She has very little to do other that be pretty and show the pressure in her job, but he is barely more than a cameo.
Overall this film lacks fireworks and bases it's slow pace on the facts of the true story and not hammy acting or directing flourishes. In this regard the film is enjoyable if a little slow. It squanders a few changes to make more of an impact but generally it delivers a true story in a manner that is straight but well told. A great cast aren't all used well but are good where it matters while also adding depth. Not the film that Saturday night crowds will be hoping for but a good story well told nonetheless.
I had been recommended Shattered Glass a half-dozen times by a friend.
He said, after watching it - it's not a great movie, but it is really,
really good. I'll disagree. Shattered Glass is a great movie.
It's not a great film (aye, there's the rub), but it is a great movie. It's entertainment, pure and simple, but it's also entertainment with depth. In that respect, it's a little like Spider Man 2.
In Shattered Glass, you'll find steady direction, sure-handed editing, an interestingly designed narrative, characters that are drawn well-enough but not so well that they overpower the story's forward movement, etc. You'll also find excellent performances.
Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson - they're all excellent (which they've all proved in other movies as well). Hayden Christensen, though, who was so wooden in Star Wars Episode 2, is amazing. His portrayal of Glass, though not perfect, is revelatory; he can actually act. Given time and the aid of excellent directors, Christensen will really blossom. Shattered Glass is, simply put, a solidly made movie about a journalist without the requisite integrity.
But why isn't this a great film and only top-notch entertainment? Well, it really comes down to the simple fact that Shattered Glass only scratches a surface that, in light of Jayson Blair and those of that ilk, deserves a little more attention. Of course, though, this is a film about a single event. It's not about compulsive lying or, really, lack of journalistic integrity. It touches on those subjects without delving into them. That is my only complaint. As a movie about a lying journalist, though, it's fast-paced, thrilling, and entertaining, and I think everyone will enjoy it.
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