Film Reviews

SHATTERED GLASS

By • Nov 14th, 2003 •

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Released by Lions Gate Films
MPAA: Rated PG-13 / Running time: 104 min

If ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN met THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY…

He coulda been a contender. Why not? — he had it all: talent, brains, an Ivy League education and a charismatic boyish charm that were the envy of all his colleagues at The New Republic, one of our nation’s most highly respected political magazines. Besides, at 24, in a notoriously underpaid profession, writer Stephen Glass was making $100 thou a year — including gigs as a freelancer for such stellar outlets as George, Rolling Stone and Slate.

But Stephen Glass was also a psychopathic liar.

As was eventually uncovered, 27 of the 41 articles he wrote for TNR were fabricated — in whole or in part. More were found elsewhere. Naturally, he was fired. But chiefly, his toying with the truth — as well as his uncanny ability to circumvent all the in-depth fact-checking to which his articles were subject — sent shock waves throughout the industry. (After all, as one editor noted despairingly, “If people can’t believe what they read, they’ll have to turn to the TV to get their news.)

No, this isn’t a figment of some filmmaker’s imagination. What you’ll see onscreen actually happened, down to the last meticulously-researched, thoroughly-vetted detail. So be prepared for a roller coaster ride through the hallowed corridors of the literati. SHATTERED GLASS is the utterly riveting story of the fall from grace of a con artist extraordinaire, and according to writer/debut-director Billy Ray, adheres to the truth on practically every aspect. For as far-fetched as it may seem, this superbly acted/directed/scripted film is based on real life.
Though you know the end of the story (it was well-publicized), it doesn’t matter. As the pressure builds up, lie by lie, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.

Background: In 1998, five years before New York Times reporter Jason Blair was outed as yet another master fabulist and plagiarist, Stephen Glass was riding high at The New Republic, a magazine heralded as “the only onflight magazine for Air Force One. It’s read by people that matter.” And Glass, played with enormous flair and credibility by the babyfaced Christensen, was among their Best and Brightest.

On-staff at TNR, he was a “star,” both well-liked and respected for his ability to get a handle on stories that had bizazz. Nothing he wrote was ever boring — as in “Hack Heaven,” his colorful expose´ of a hackers’ convention in D.C. (pub. May 1998) featuring a 15-year-old kid who broke into the databases of Jukt Micronics, a “big-time software firm,” then proceeded to extort money, a sports car and porn magazines from them.

But none of it was true — as Glass’ editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) was to learn when Adam Pennenberg (Steve Zahn) from Forbes online magazine told him that in checking out the article, he couldn’t confirm a single fact.
Lane was nonplussed. It was unthinkable! Still, acting on the premise that “A great editor defends his writers against anyone,” Lane gently questioned his young associate, who reeked from innocence. Besides, the kid had a zillion notes, Emails and phone records to back up his piece. Considering that the only proof for some material is from the writer’s notes — and indeed, Glass’s were thoroughly vetted — how could it happen they were duped?

They were.

The rest of the film plays like a docu-drama, a la All The President’s Men with Glass coming across as another Talented Mr. Ripley, eerily hiding a face of evil behind his boyish demeanor. And in the process, we’re spoonfed through the fascinating behind-the-scenes process of writers at work.

And it all works. Stunningly. It was a role made-to-order for the talented Mr. Christensen (Annakin Skywalker of Star Wars 2 & 3, and Sam Monroe in Life As A House). In counterpoint to Christensen’s malevolent creep, Peter Sarsgaard delivers brilliantly as a living example of integrity and humility. His is an Oscar-worthy performance. And Chloe Sevigny and all the other cast members who occupy desks at The New Republic — they, too, deserve accolades in a film that well-merits your attention.

Finally, to all the real-life people at TNR who actually lived through this traumatic period, they merit our respect and admiration…and gratitude, for freely cooperating with the filmmakers and selflessly holding the truth up to the light.


Epilogue: Lane went on to the Washington Post. Glass, who subsequently graduated from Georgetown Law School (but hasn’t taken the bar) is currently living in New York City, where last May wrote “The Fabulist” (Simon & Schuster, pub.), a fictional apologia for his behavior. It never made the bestseller list.

And on10/14/03, a NY Daily News columnist reported that Glass had been offered a job by Rolling Stone, one of the journals he defrauded, calling it “inexplicable, like a bank rehiring an embezzler.”

To get more info. on Glass, access the internet website: www.rickmcginnis.com/articles/Glassindex.htm and read “A Tissue of Lies.”


Director/Writer: Billy Ray, based on an article by Buzz Bissinger (as H.G. Bissinger).

Cast:
Hayden Christensen (Stephen Glass), Peter Sarsgaard (Chuck Lane), Hank Azaria (Michael Kelly), Chloë Sevigny (Caitlin Avey), Melanie Lynskey (Amy Brand), Steve Zahn (Adam Penenberg), Rosario Dawson (Andie Fox), Cas Anvar (Kambiz Faroohar), Luke Kirby (Rob Gruen), Jamie Elman (Aaron Bluth), Mark Blum (Lewis Estridge), Chad Donella (David Bach), Russell Yuen (Emmit Rich), Linda E. Smith (Gloria), Ted Kotcheff (Marty Peretz), Owen Rotharmel (Ian Restil), Bill Rowat (George Sims).

Credits:
Producers: Craig Baumgarten, Adam Merims, Gaye Hirsch, Tove Christensen; Exec. Producers: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Michael Paseornek, Tom Ortenberg; Film Editor-Jeffrey Ford; Original Music-Mychael Danna; Cinematographer-Mandy Walker; Casting-Cassandra Kulukundis; Production Designer-François Séguin; Costume Designer: Renee April.

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