This is a superb directorial debut by Billy Ray, who also wrote the script for this engrossing film. It tells the true story of how one journalist, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christiansen), a star journalist for the self-styled, in-flight magazine for Air Force One, "The New Republic", bamboozled his editors for years with bogus stories. This was to have a devastating impact on a magazine that was well-respected in the political community.
The film is a riveting study of a pathological liar who had the need to be the center of attention. For years, Stephen Glass had regaled his colleagues with journalistic feats, only to have them eventually discover that they were mere mumbo jumbo, as few of them had little more than a grain of truth to them. Stephen Glass is portrayed as a slightly obnoxious, self-deprecating character, who binds his colleagues to him through his smarmy, somewhat ingratiating. personality.
Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) is the first editor of "The New Republic" with whom Stephen Glass worked. When Kelly finds something questionable in one of the stories submitted by Glass, Stephen is able to explain it away, and the incident is glossed over. When Kelly is fired by the publisher, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) takes over under difficult circumstances, as the staff is loyal to Kelly and resentful of Lane. Still, Lane perseveres, occasionally crossing swords with Stephen Glass.
All comes to a head when a reporter from another publication questions the veracity of one of Stephen's stories. An inside investigation by an anguished and angry Chuck Lane clearly shows that Stephen's story is not fact based but, rather, an elaborate deceit, false from beginning to end. Stephen's journalistic house of cards comes tumbling down around him, rocking the integrity of The New Republic. Chuck Lane is placed in the difficult position of exposing the full breadth of Stephen's journalistic perfidy, which ended up being widespread.
The cast of the film is excellent overall, though I did find that Hayden Christiansen's portrayal of Stephen Glass paints him as too obvious a liar. I found it a tad difficult to believe that his colleagues gave him as much credence as they did. Chloe Sevigny contributes a fine performance as fellow journalist, Caitlin Avey, who was one of Stephen's bamboozled friends.
Hank Azaria gives a fine portrayal of popular editor Michael Kelly, which shows that he can handle serious dramatic roles as adeptly as he handles comedic ones. The stand out performance, however, is that of Peter Sarsgaard, whose understated, poignant portrayal of Kelly's replacement, the beleaguered, unpopular Chuck Lane, is sensitive yet very powerful and complex.
The DVD has first class audio and visuals, as well as an excellent audio commentary by both the director and Chuck Lane. It also has a must see 60 Minutes interview with Stephen Glass, which took place about five years after the events in the film. It is well worth seeing.
All in all, this is an outstanding film that will keep the viewer riveted to the screen. It is one that is well worth having in one's personal film collection. Bravo!
In 1999, "The New Republic" magazine that so prided itself on insightful political and social commentary was plunged into scandal when it was discovered that one of the magazine's star reporters, Stephen Glass, had fabricated many of his stories. "Shattered Glass" is the story of Stephen Glass' fall from bright young star to pariah of the journalistic community. Hayden Christensen plays Glass, whose self-deprecating, obnoxiously ingratiating manner somehow blinds his co-workers to his machinations, all while he makes self-righteous speeches about journalistic integrity. Christensen's portrayal of Glass is convincing enough to paint the man as a real character, but I hope Glass was a better liar in reality than he is in this film, because it left me dumbfounded that anyone would have ever believed a word he said. The film's stand-out performance is Peter Sarsgaard's portrayal of "The New Republic" editor, Chuck Lane, under whose authority Stephen Glass was exposed and sent packing. Chloe Sevigny and Hank Azaria also give memorable performances as fellow journalist Caitlin Avey and Michael Kelly, who was the magazine's editor before Chuck Lane, respectively. Stephen Glass was a pathological liar and a con artist, but far more interesting than Glass are the holes in journalism's fact-checking systems that his success revealed and the willingness of a bunch of the nation's supposedly bright up-and-coming journalists to believe things that were so obviously preposterous. Director Billy Ray has done an admirable job of dramatizing this true story with an impressive script which he wrote himself, based on an article by H. G. Bissinger. "Shattered Glass" is an interesting look at integrity, gullibility, and delusion in those who write the news and those who read it. And Peter Sarsgaard's performance is one of the best of 2003.
The DVD: There aren't many bonus features, but what's there is excellent. There is a "60 Minutes" interview with the real Stephen Glass in which he recounts how and why he started fabricating new stories. There is also an audio commentary by director Billy Ray and the real Chuck Lane, the editor who discovered the extent of Stephen Glass' deception. This is one of the best audio commentaries I've heard on a film. Ray and Lane are both articulate and engaging. The commentary doesn't meander or have awkward silences. Lane contributes a lot of additional information on Glass and the workings of "The New Republic". Ray talks about filming, editing, and story-telling decisions. Sitting through the film a second time to listen to the commentary won't bore you to tears. If Stephen Glass' story interests you at all, I highly recommend both the commentary and the "60 Minutes" interview.
on September 8, 2004
I heard about this movie a month ago and finally had the chance to watch it last night. It is a great film. I am an author and love movies about my chosen trade. This film did not disappoint.
The story of Stephen Glass and how he managed to dupe all of his co-workers into believing he was a trustworthy writer is a work-of-art in itself. So I was amazed when the director (Billy Ray) was able to present in such a way as to not rely soley on the plot, but involve some great acting and a few side stories that worked quite well: Having Glass in a classroom telling his success story to high school students, showing the journalist who wanted to change her writing style to that of the successful Glass, and touching on the concept of what makes a great editor.
This movie pulls you in right from the start and keeps you interested the whole way through. I wouldn't even answer the phone while watching the movie.
Hayden Christensen turned in a flawless performance as Stephen Glass. It was a pleasure watching this young actor work his magic on screen.
Peter Sarsgaard was also brilliant as the new editor at the magazine. He is an extremely talented actor, completely convincing in his role as a man thrust into a position he didn't necessarily want, but then rises to the occasion when the Glass controversy erupts.
All in all, I can't see how anyone could not like this film; it's based on a true story, is directed very well, and has some great actors. I highly suggest people see this movie. It will keep you entertained throughout.
See ya next review.
on June 10, 2004
This is a gem of a movie should have received more commercial acclaim than it did when, as I think that it's one of 2003's very best. Although I did not see it during its theatrical run, I am glad that listened to a friend of mine who loved the movie when he saw it at the movies. It's so good that I am going to buy it, and I am not a big DVD buyer.
Although many of you are already familiar with this hard to believe true story, as it received much press and even appeared in the television show "60 Minutes," nothing you've heard can prepare you for this movie as its strength lies in its sublime acting, and even more importantly in the way the story is framed by writer and first time director Billy Ray. It makes for a quite a suspenseful and thrilling ride.
Possible spoiler ahead: If you've never heard of Steven Glass or the events that this movie chronicles, you may want jump to the next two paragraphs as not knowing anything in advance could make your movie experience may even more pleasurable than for those who know a little about it. In a nutshell the movie tells the story of a journalist at The New Republic" magazine, who had the unique talent to come up with and chronicle colorful stories that were a shot in the arm to a traditional magazine that was a must read mainly for policy-makers (yes, even Presidents) and other politicos.
Even those of you who know that Mr. Glass will not be remembered for his reporting but for the series of events that led to his ultimate downfall, will enjoy what is in essence a universal story about ambition, power, manipulation, reinvention and that we should not always believe what hear or even see in print. This message is especially important with the advent of the internet.
For those who skipped the previous paragraphs, the water is safe now. The movie brilliantly chronicles the ups and downs of a young journalist (played by Hayden Christensen in one of the year's best and most underrated performances) of a high-brow political magazine. At the start I mention that the movie's main strength lies in the manner in which it is framed, and I won't give that away.
One interesting fact that you will find out in the director's commentary (which is an invaluable extra on this DVD) about the movie's greatest strength is that was originally not told in its eventual framework. It was a last minute decision made when the original structure failed to impress anyone, including the director himself. From seeing the movie, you'd never know that to be the case, and it's one of those inside stories that to me represent the very best of what DVD extras should be about.
If it had not been for an additional couple of days of shooting after the initial wrap, the result was still have been good, but certainly not brilliant. While the release has no deleted scenes or outtakes (which is for the best as there is usually a reason for their exclusion from a film), I was overjoyed to hear the director's commentary over the entire movie as it is a lesson in filmmaking from a guy who directing his very first movie. The commentary was so interesting that I wound up in essence seeing the whole movie twice, as I saw it and immediately jumped into the commentary and I could not stop until it ended. Thank God that the movie is very tight and lasts just over 90 minutes.
As indicated above, Hayden Christensen's performance as Stephen Glass is as good as there was during 2003 and shows that he's not a one trick pony. He should in no way be judged solely on his wooden work in the underwhelming "Star Wars" series as there must be a dumbing down bacteria in water of where George Lucas is filming this trilogy. Peter Sarsgaard who portrays Chuck Lane, Glass' editor of The New Republic, gives one of the most nuanced and brilliant performances ever captured on film. He plays a guy you want to dislike, but you just might find yourself rooting for before the movie ends. Sarsgaard would have been a major movie star in the '70s, yet I hold hope that this performance makes other directors see what a talent he is. The performances would be considered outstanding even if they were not based on real people, but downright brilliant when one considers how hard it is to walk the line between caricature and an honest portrayal of real people, especially when some of the real people in the story were actually present during the making of this film.
There is really not a single performance that is not solid and it shows what great things can happen when a writer-director gives his all and is supported not only by a great cast but a crew that makes him look so masterful. In the commentary Ray gives specific credit to several experts in their respective fields who also supported him as a first time director. Even as a seasoned movie buff, I was surprised at my lack of appreciation of the people who make good directors look even better. Whether it's lighting, framing, scouting, or casting, the commentary made me want to know much more about the role of the people who we never get the public recognition that those in the forefront do. The director's commentary (maybe out of homage to journalism) highlights the few artistic liberties that he took in making this movie, which were supported by Chuck Lane, who also comments and expands on the words of Billy Ray.
The last five minutes of the movie are worth seeing time and time again. Although this may not mean anything right know, pay close attention to the group of people that Glass is speaking to as there is more than irony in those scenes. No, there is no big shock that is revealed, but something entirely more subtle and honest to the movie's structure. This is a must-see film which easily earns 5 stars.
on May 2, 2004
March was a big month for ethically challenged journalists.
First, infamous ex-New York Times reporter Jayson Blair published his book, "Burning Down My Masters' House," a tome that generated reviews uniformly more interesting than the actual contents of its pages.
Then "Shattered Glass" was released on video. The film looks at Stephen Glass, a young writer and associate editor for The New Republic who, in the mid- to late '90s, rose to notoriety with his vivid, colorful articles - many of which were later found to be, in whole or in part, simply products of his imagination.
The movie focuses on the period in 1998 when Glass' jig was just about up. In order to cover his tracks, he's forced to fake his notes, manipulate office politics, create phantom voicemail accounts and manufacture Web sites and business cards. As depicted by "Shattered," passing off fiction as journalism isn't just a despicable practice, it also appears to involve about four times more sweat than doing actual, honest work.
It's a fascinating story that, on the whole, is deftly handled. Unfortunately, Hayden Christensen, who plays Glass, doesn't seem as skilled a con artist as the guy he's portraying had to have been. With his passive-aggressive apologies and transparent flattery, he's more of an Eddie Haskell than a convincing fraud. I'm a reporter at a newspaper that's a long way away from the infinitely more sophisticated, more competitive New Republic, yet Glass' manipulation, as rendered by Christensen, wouldn't fly in my newsroom for five seconds.
As a result, the movie suffers somewhat and, while that may also be a fault of the writing, the script doesn't fail actors Peter Sarsgaard and Hank Azaria who, as Glass' editors Charles Lane and Michael Kelly, give smart, flawless performances and are the best reasons to see the movie (yes, Sarsgaard is every bit as good as the hype claims).
Also solid is Steve Zahn as Forbes reporter Adam Penenberg, and the scenes in which he disproves one of Glass' articles fact-by-fact play like lighter reversals on "All the President's Men."
On the DVD: The lone extra feature is a brisk "60 Minutes" segment on the real Glass, in which we see what a low-key, blank-eyed cipher he actually is. There's also a somewhat self-serving though no-less-interesting commentary track by Lane and writer-director Billy Ray that, ironically, points out the many inventions and dramatic licenses that were taken in order to make the story more cinematic. It's too bad they didn't give the actual subject of the movie an opportunity to comment on the movie that's been made from an unfortunate, pathetic chapter of his life; that would've been something to hear.
on April 12, 2014
I gave this movie 5 stars because it is so interesting, intriguing, and entertaining! Hayden Christensen does an outstanding job of playing Stephen Glass, the young journalist for New Republic Magazine who was found out as a plagiarist who had written, as fact, stories completely imagined by him. From having read the e-book of one of the editors of the magazine, the one who ended up firing Glass, I can say the movie is extremely accurate and that Christensen's portrayal of Glass is spot on. I've actually watched the movie twice now, and I rarely watch any movie more than once. If you like movies about journalism or movies taken from real life or just want to be entertained for a couple of hours, this movie is a great choice.
on January 12, 2004
When Billy Ray's new film, Shattered Glass, begins we hear the enthusiastic narration of the film's quasi-title character, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), who is happily relaying his feelings about journalism and how an article with substance may not necessarily be as great as an article with character. This sounds quaint and noble coming from the lanky Glass, who enters the film doing one of the things that he seems to do best - observing things around him. He enters his alma mater to speak to a journalism class about the subject, and we also learn that he is a contributing writer to George, Rolling Stone, and the associate editor of The New Republic. He is a celebrity of the first order in the world of budding journalists - he may be the fresh fish of The New Republic, but he can own an audience. This rapt audience of students becomes the frame that flashes back to the chronological beginning of Shattered Glass, and the movie begins its steady course on the emotional and ethical rollercoaster that it becomes.
As of early 1998, Glass is an esteemed writer on the staff of The New Republic. Sure, the staff's median age is 26, but he's the youngest and also a favorite of editor Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria). His co-workers view him as a superior even with their age or seniority above him, and in fact: he is. Glass can weave a story like no one else on the staff, and it shows in the meetings where he tantalizes his coworkers with details of his next article. Things take a turn, though, and Kelly is fired with Glass's rival, Chuck Lane (Sarsgaard) stepping in. When Lane hears of the Republic's boss's intent of firing Kelly, he immediately steps back and doesn't want to be a part of it for he considers Kelly a friend. When Kelly is fired, though, Glass and his co-workers see Lane as a villain while the audience has seen what an upstanding character he really is.
Things go downhill with Lane as editor, and not with the magazine. Glass publishes an article called "Hack Heaven" that gets much attention from an online magazine, but not exactly the kind of attention the Republic would want. Company names don't check out, sources are unreachable, and the seeds of doubt about Glass' integrity are sewn.. We don't see things from Glass's point of view, but rather from the perspective of the online mag trying to expose him and Lane, who wants to believe Glass but is beginning to lose faith. Christensen becomes truly amazing here. He's pushed into a corner with the investigation of his article's integrity, but he maintains that it all checks out. He never gives anything away in his slow unraveling. Sarsgaard really stands out, though, and an Oscar nom for Supporting Actor had better come his way. The emotional spiral of the movie is really seen through him, and he alternates between doubt, despair, and anger with such nuance that he practically owns the movie.
Sarsgaard would own the movie if Christensen didn't make Glass such a likeable character, even as he is eventually revealed for what he truly is. Glass is the kind of movie that puts your mind and your stomach in a pretzel, but not in a Usual Suspects or Vanilla Sky way. The mind-bending of the film exists on a purely emotional and ethical level, and it's refreshing, considering the manipulative junk that is out most of the time (*cough* Runaway Jury *cough*). Movies like Jury present its narrative with little motivation or reason behind its characters, but Glass lets it all fly with such supported precision, it's quite a feat. We never learn much about Stephen Glass's history, but there's a ponit behind it - the movie isn't about why he did it, but what he did and how. From trailers and even my review, it may become obvious exactly what Glass did, but the depth and the impact of his actions aren't really revealed until the end of the film.
The facts in the movie certainly take twists and turns that make it seem more typical, but the 'facts' don't really drive the narrative - the characters do. Sarsgaard makes a speech to another character toward the end of the film all about journalistic integrity and ethical duty, and in any other movie it would come off as silly and pretentious. In Glass, it gets to the heart of it all. Even though Stephen Glass knew what words could do and used it to his advantage in the film, director Billy Ray's script wastes not one word. Movies like this are a gift to its actors, and whatever the results in February, Christensen has topped himself as Kevin Kline's son in Life as a House and given a (so-far) career-defining performance that shows great promise. Sarsgaard has had a few bit parts in the past, but he blasts onto the screen here with an incredibly intense role.
Shattered Glass dissects issues of morality and ethics in the field of journalism in a way that some movies could never even begin to touch. It's not about actions or plot twists or MacGuffins, but it's about changes in the movie's characters that can never really be predicted. Glass is a thriller in the best sense of the word, because it gets its thrills from things that should be tapped into more often. Shattered Glass is a step above the rest of the 'thrillers' with which it will be unfortunately placed, not to mention, it’s about as great as anything you'll see all year. Despite all the lies you'll hear in the course of the movie, that's not one. Shattered Glass is a great step forward for human drama on film, and one of the best movies made about journalism.
on April 8, 2007
I just finished watching this movie for what has to be the 10th time and I'm sttill blown away by it. The power of the film is based in how much you want to like Stephen Glass, a true people pleaser, played by Hayden Christiansen. The desperation and intensity of the performance is a wonder. In fact, the entire cast is a joy to watch from Stephen Zahn finally revealing himself as something other than a nerd to Hak Azaria being serious to Sargaard stepping forward and out of the shadow of his sidekick character status. Even the score is outstanding, offering a unique combination of range and consistency.
As a study of codependency gone over the edge, this film is incredible. Glass was so desperate for praise and to tell people what they wanted to hear, the truth was at first exaggerated, then neglected and finally forgotten.
The DVD also offers commentary by the director and Chuck Lane, the TNR editor who along with Forbes exposed Glass. The commentary allows this movie to step beyond Hollywood history to being actual history.
On a final note, it's interesting that Tom Cruise is an executive producer of this film. Whatever his beliefs and personal life, as an executive producer he had a hand in bringing this brilliant film to the screen and it is for contributions like this, as much as his acting, he deserves consideration.
What a fine mess, we have here. This is a re-visit to this film, first seen over fourteen years ago. The National Review, a fine upstanding magazine whose journalsts give us some of the best writing. But, for a time things fell apart, and it is all due to one young man.
Stephen Glass, played magnificently by the Hayden Christensen, seemed to be the young up and comer. Terrific stories, almost everyone at the magazine wished they had written these pieces. The problem was, Stephen Glass made them all up. You would think a magazine of this stature would not get fooled like this.but, then we have the Washington Post and the mess they had when a journalist made up a series of articles. At this point, magazines and newspapers trusted their journalists, they had people to run checks, but sometimes that fails.
One of my favorite character actors, Steve Zahn, plays a writer for Forbes trying to track down a hacker Glass had written about. Nothing to be found, and red flags started going up all over the landscape. The new editor, Charles Lane, played by Peter Sarsgaard, follows up the reports of something gone wrong with Glass's writing. Glass has one believable excuse after another for the problems with his articles, but in the end he comes undone. The number of people who believed in him, and who are now destroyed by his betrayal are numerous. And, why? We really never get the full story.
Stephen Glass is now an assistant to lawyers in California. He went to law school, and he passed the boards, but no state will give him a license to practice law. Sad story, brilliant young man. The acting by all is superb. Writing well done. Good flick.
Recommended. prisrob 03-13-15
on January 28, 2014
"Shattered Glass" is the story of Stephen Glass, a reporter for the cerebral and highly respected New Republic magazine, who, during his tenure at TNR during the early 90's, made a huge splash as the youngest journalist on staff, and the one with the "sexiest" stories. The problem was that Glass was not a journalist performing amazing journalistic feats. He was a journalist writing fiction--which is a nice way of saying he was a bottom-class liar. Glass "cooked"--doctored or fictionalized--over half of the stories he submitted while working for TNR; to some pieces, he simply added a fanciful dash of detail, while others were total fabrications. This may not seem like much to people used to seeing tabloid stories of Oprah's UFO encounters each day on supermarket shelves; on the surface, Glass's fantasies seem harmless enough. But for anyone thinking about the way they're connected to the world beyond their living room, his actions are downright chilling. They cut straight to the heart of a problem affecting everyone who doesn't have a front-row seat within all of the world's exclusive power chambers--and that means just about all of us. We rely on journalism to give us an unbiased view of politics, global events, and cultural phenomena. More and more, though, the complaint is that objectivity is a lost cause, that the "free press" has been bought out by lobbyists and corporate CEOs, that the once-crusading journalist is either the sellout creating a half-baked Associated Press story, or the parrot reading, verbatim, whatever comes in over the AP wires, without the slightest interest in fact-checking or the piece's social relevance. How do we find out what's going on in the world if the free press isn't doing its job? If we can't trust them--if nobody is holding them to the highest standards of truth and dignity--then who do we trust?
"Shattered Glass" brings this dilemma beautifully to life. Hayden Christensen is deft and wonderful as the seemingly deferential, self-deprecating, wide-eyed young writer who is oh-so-modest about the witty and revealing slice-of-life pieces he's turning in at the normally "stuffy" New Republic. Christensen's aw-shucks Glass is beloved by his co-workers and courted by competing editors. But--in his mind, at least--he's willing to tell young journalism students that humility is merely a tactic, a way of standing out from the other sharks in the shark tank. He's also able, in the same fashion, to share the secret of his success: for all the fact-checking that is part of the regular routine at a magazine like The New Republic, there is one type of story that can't be deflated by a fact checker: the kind where the reporter's self-made notes are the only source material against which "fact" can be checked. Glass does these sorts of pieces over and over again, until one day an online-magazine editor shows his reporter a Glass article related to their own venue and asks, "Why didn't YOU get this story?" The reporter, Adam Penenberg, (Steve Zahn, who plays a cool newshound better than most cool newshounds could, stopping just short of the cockiness that would make him unlikeable) is annoyed enough to wonder why, indeed, he didn't get it, and starts digging.
Glass is then in the unenviable position of being buried under his own dirt, but he refuses to come clean. Instead, he blames the whole affair on office politics: he was a favorite of fired TNR editor Mike Kelly (the wondrous Hank Azaria, man of a million faces and voices) and is now hated by the replacement editor (Peter Sarsgaard), whom he accuses of failing to back him when the fictions start hitting the fan. Sarsgaard, as usual, is just perfect as new editor Chuck Lane; he is one of those God-blessed talents who doesn't so much act a role as emanate it, making the word "Hello" clearly mean "I long to touch you" or "I'm going to kill you" with barely the flick of an eyebrow. His straight-arrow Chuck is, in fact, seeking to save his cub/star reporter, even as Christensen's Glass is deftly playing all the levels, amping up the pity factor and badmouthing Chuck to the rest of the staff. But when the facts (or lack thereof) start piling up, Chuck has to confront Glass. And even as he tries repeatedly to give his former colleague an out, Glass spins and spins, embellishing on the spot, dodging, weaving, and (I just loved Christensen's earnest outrage here) even going on the offensive, until Chuck is forced to say that all he wants is the truth: can't Glass just give him that?
Of course, Glass can't. So now it's Chuck who's doing the digging, pitting himself against Glass's loyal supporters. Prominent in this group are Caitlin (Chloe Sevigny, appearing again with Sarsgaard after creating so much magic with him and star Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry"), and Amy (Melanie Lynskey, the underrated co-star of "Heavenly Creatures", who shared a brilliant screen debut with Kate Winslet), expert journalists who nonetheless are more inclined to mother Steve Glass than line-edit him. The showdown between Chuck, Steve, Caitlin, Amy and the rest of the staff isn't one full of guns blazing and blood spurting; it's uglier and subtler than that. It's about ethics versus entertainment, and something that might best be described as hubris, which can overtake us when we think we're better than the truth.
(This movie had an interesting epilogue: after his debacle at The New Republic, the real Stephen Glass published a novel called "The Fabulist". Three guesses as to what it was about. I don't know how the novel did. But Glass's actions only underscored the portrait "Shattered Glass" drew of him. I do not know whether he will be featured in the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary under "gall (unmitigated)", "egoist", or "mendacity", but these are the only places, I hope, where his name will again appear in print. Meanwhile, I congratulate all the rest of the cast of "Shattered Glass", who gave the film the look, feel, and authenticity it needed, aside from its main players, to make it a great film. Their performances were standouts, and I'm sure we'll be seeing all of them again, in bigger and better roles.)