Cast: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria,
Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Melanie Lynskey, Rosario Dawson
out of 5
Aside from a hooker with a heart of gold or a cop who plays by his
own set of rules, there few things Americans love more than a con
man who means well. This is certainly evident in the movies where
con men (or perhaps I should say con artists) are frequently depicted
as colorful anti-heroes, non-conformists who buck the system with
style. Even real-life liars can get the hero treatment. Observe Steven
Spielberg’s recent Catch Me If You Can for a romantic
treatment of Frank Abagnale Jr.’s life as forger and
master fake. Heck, even a traitor like Benedict Arnold can
get some cinematic sympathy, even if is in the form of an awful TV
movie like USA’s Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor.
So maybe writer-director Billy Ray is being a little harsh
in the way he depicts former New Republic journalist/fabricator
Stephen Glass as such a disgrace, I mean, he did say he was
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Stephen Glass, he
was a journalistic wunderkind in the late ’90s, joining the
staff of The New Republic right out of college and publishing
for several other well-respected publications, before an Internet
journalist happened to look into one of his stories and discover it
to be a total fabrication, which led to further revelations about
many of his other stories. The film dramatizes this revelation and
Glass’s desperate attempt to cover his tracks. Although the
film is already receiving comparisons to All The President’s
Man, Shattered Glass is not a thriller, it’s a character
study, a portrait of liar floundering under the weight of his own
lies, and how he cynically manipulates his co-workers. Glass is portrayed
by Hayden Christensen, probably best known for his stiff portrayal
of a bratty Darth Vader in the last Star Wars debacle, but
here he seems to be channeling James Dean, whom he resembles,
as he plays Glass as a sensitive young man eager to please and prone
to disingenuous use of the phrase “Did I do something wrong?”
as a preemptive when cracks appear.
Of course one can’t help thinking of the Jayson Blair
case that made waves at The New York Times earlier this year,
and it would seem the filmmakers are little self conscious about the
size of that story too as the reputation of the certainly venerable
New Republic gets a bit of puffing up in this film. One thing
that is never adequately explained though is how such flagrant lies
make it through what we’re told is a thorough inspection process.
Sure Glass might be charming and a born storyteller, but the breadth
of his lies is truly staggering. He doesn’t just make up people
and events, he invents a software company and supposedly pending legislation,
and no one caught on at the magazine?
There’s something comforting about Ray’s judgmental film.
Granted, it’s unlikely anyone would have rendered Glass as journalistic
Ferris Bueller, but I was relieved that the film doesn’t try
mitigate his guilt by dwelling on the psychological underpinnings
of his deeds. At no point in Shattered Glass do we get a scene
with an overbearing dad pushing a winning-is-the-only-thing-that-matters
message on an impressionable young Glass. In truth Stephen Glass had
all the breaks and a dream job, and he lost it through cynicism and
guile. He deserves all the scorn he’s received and more.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...