Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shattered Glass (2003)

Starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, et al
Rated PG-13, 94 minutes

Stephen Glass (Christensen) was a wunderkind journalist. He found himself contributing to major magazines right out of college. He became an associate editor at The New Republic by the age of 26. The New Republic is a political magazine whose claim to fame is being the on-flight publication for Air Force One. Glass' signature was his feature writing, telling tales of drunken debauchery at a conservative's conference, or mall Santa Clauses forming a union.

It's 1998. The internet is just starting to explode. Glass' latest and greatest project is a story about a kid hacker who negotiated a multi-million dollar deal with a company whose website he hacked. When reporters from the web notice inaccuracies with Glass' account, The New Republic comes under fire. Editor Michael Kelly (Azaria) defends Stephen, and eventually loses his job. He gets replaced by reporter Chuck Lane (Sarsgaard), who has no political support from the staff. As Chuck digs into the hacker story, he finds the real truth about the Stephen Glass style of "reporting."

Just seeing the title card telegraphs the plot of this movie, so I was a bit disappointed on that front. Stephen's comments about not violating your ethics practically act as a flashing "FORESHADOWING" graphic. Hayden Christensen makes Glass sound perpetually guilty throughout the main portion of the film, which works here I guess, because it makes the audience feel smarter when they catch him in his lies. I liked both Hank Azaria and Peter Sarsgaard here. You could feel the weight on Chuck Lane's shoulders as he took over the editor's post. As a viewer, you grew away from seeing him as an enemy as his home life was shown.

The way scenes materialized, I thought this would be a movie about the rise of internet journalism. The side plot involving the Forbes web team tearing down Glass gets cast aside, only resolving itself in a title card. I found their scenes quite entertaining. I mean, Glass created the "big computer company's website" on a members.aol domain. HA!

It seems I've had a string of movies about con men. I recently put thoughts to keyboard on "Matchstick Men," and like that movie, this one pleased me from a voyeur-to-a-liar standpoint. Watching Glass fall apart, and watching his editor deconstruct his poor story, was oddly pleasurable. That would be called schadenfreude, I know, but my doctor has prescribed not crowbarring new vocabulary into my reviews.


Fine, but not a home run, "Shattered Glass" is okay if you're studying journalism (like myself) or if you like watching liars squirm.

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