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Worth A Look: 15.87%
Just Average: 9.52%
Pretty Crappy: 9.52%
Sucks: 6.35%

6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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Shattered Glass
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by Robert Flaxman

"A great film trick that would be better if we didn't know it was coming."
5 stars

Depending on where you're viewing the film from, the title of Shattered Glass is a bit deceiving. Walking in, it seems logical - the film is going to be the story of Stephen Glass and his fall from grace as a writer/editor at The New Republic. And of course, it is - but for the most part, this story isn't about Glass. It's about his colleagues and editors who were duped into accepting his lies as facts and the editor, Chuck Lane, who finally (with an assist from Forbes Digital) broke Glass' fabrication wide open. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, insulting to the journalistic profession.

Writer/director Billy Ray pulls a fast one on the audience, though, and opens with narration from Glass. It turns out he is addressing a class of students at his old high school, and the viewer gets the initial impression that Glass is the hero of the story, a wunderkind whose accomplishments are renowned.

As a device, Ray's method of storytelling - using this classroom setting as a frame in which to put the flashbacks to Glass' time at The New Republic, running from just before the editorial turnover that installed Chuck Lane to Glass' final removal from the staff - doesn't quite work. Let me qualify that - it doesn't quite work if you're familiar with the story. My suspicion is that most of the people seeing this movie are pretty familiar with many of the intricacies of the Glass story, and are more likely to question why Glass seems to be getting the "good guy" treatment than they are to buy it wholesale.

This is a shame because it's actually quite a well-executed device. At first, Glass comes off as a nice guy, and we want to root for him, in much the same way his coworkers are unwilling for the longest time to believe the accusations against him. When first confronted with the problems in his story, Glass suggests that he has been duped, and again we and his coworkers want to believe it. When Glass' web of lies is finally exposed, it comes like a punch in the stomach.

At the same time as he is setting Glass up as a great guy, Ray is building a much more nuanced portrait of Chuck Lane, the editor who uncovered the extent of Glass' deception. While he makes it clear that Lane is not well-liked among the TNR staff, Ray skillfully paints a character who just wants to do the right thing. It's not that he isn't interested in loyalty - the phone call where he is initially offered the editorial position covers that - he just isn't fooled by Glass' spinning of the wheels, and wants better answers than others require and better answers than Glass is prepared to give.

The clashes between Lane and the rest of the staff, specifically Glass and his biggest supporter, Caitlin Avey, make up most of the second part of the movie (after the first part is devoted primarily to establishing the characters and then to Forbes Digital's initial report of Glass' "inaccuracies"), and they are by and large riveting. When Glass and Lane drive to Bethesda and Glass insists things happened even as Lane stares at evidence proving they couldn't have, we feel Lane's frustration. As much as we wanted to identify with Glass in the first section, we identify that much more with Lane knowing that we've been deceived just as he was. Glass is exposed for what he is - whiny, unsympathetic, and unrepentant - and Lane becomes the hero of the film, just as he should be.

Ray's writing is solid, and the characters come to life both through his dialogue and the strong performances delivered by the actors. Hayden Christensen appears to have been typecast as "the petulant kid," but he pulls it off much better here than in Attack of the Clones - his Glass is unsympathetic, but there is still, even at the end of the film, the faintest undercurrent of humanity, as the audience tries to grasp why Glass did what he did. (To his credit, Ray does not hand out easy answers, and is content to depict and let the audience reach its own conclusions.) Better still is Peter Sarsgaard, who delivers a wonderful turn as Chuck Lane, a man unafraid to be more serious than his peers. Good supporting roles from Chloe Sevigny, Melanie Lynskey, Hank Azaria, and Steve Zahn fill out the film.

Even five years after the fact, the Stephen Glass story is still fresh in the public consciousness, helped by more recent incidents like the Jayson Blair story. In a way it is too bad, because Shattered Glass would be more effective were its conclusion not known to most of the viewing audience.

This is pretty much the only complaint, though, and it is hardly the fault of the filmmakers, who have delivered a startling, topical, and compelling look into the darker corners of the journalism world.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8286&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/11/04 03:54:52
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This film is available for download or online viewing at CinemaNow.com For more in the CinemaNow.com series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/15/11 Kathryn Came out of this movie even more convinced that journalist need to be more ethical. 5 stars
10/13/09 Jeff Wilder Clinical presentation. But great script and great performances. 4 stars
6/30/09 Matt Anyone that gives this under 4 stars obviously doesn't know good cinema...and this is! 5 stars
6/24/06 Jenny this movie is immaculant. i absoutley adore it. 10. 5 stars
7/29/05 yuko suspicious journalism 5 stars
6/03/05 Dani Tight, fascinating, and well-acted. 5 stars
1/28/05 Phil M. Aficionado Solid casting, realistic acting and tight writing makes for a revealing and winning story 4 stars
12/30/04 Landshark Gripping gut-grinder...when partisan media gets caught lying, they just get better liars. 5 stars
10/11/04 Matt Thiel Much better than the similarly-themed 'Owning Mahowny'. Peter Sarsgaard is very good here. 4 stars
10/07/04 Mitch I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT <3<3 5 stars
6/12/04 Elizabeth Blackey This bites the Big One 1 stars
6/12/04 Elizabeth Warburton Lame! 1 stars
6/02/04 Elizabeth Award-worthy performance by Peter Sarsgaard. In my Top 10 of 2003. 5 stars
2/15/04 sumixam scored free tickets - thank God! 1 stars
1/14/04 Betty White Sarsgaard is superb in this engaging, somewhat life-changing drama. 5 stars
12/27/03 Chris A terrfic drama with an realstic perforence by Christean. 5 stars
12/07/03 ajay saw it based on the *bitchslap reviews/comments. Excellent 5 stars
11/25/03 Chris Klejdys A very entertaining movie, and very relevant. Lots of cool DC locales, too. 5 stars
11/25/03 Lord Chu Awesome and compelling. One of the best movies I've seen in months. 5 stars
11/13/03 Jin Nope 1 stars
11/10/03 hakan BAKAN SEE 5 stars
11/04/03 M. Orenson Simply, a masterpiece. 5 stars
11/03/03 Starbelly Best film of the year. Mesmerizing. 5 stars
10/28/03 HCgirl1 Who else is more talented? Hayden CONSTINTLY pulls off EVERY ROLL he takes on!! 5 stars
10/28/03 ligaya Worthy successor to All President's Men! 5 stars
10/24/03 Marce No typecasting for Hayden, yay!! 5 stars
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  31-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Mar-2004



Directed by
  Billy Ray

Written by
  Billy Ray

  Hayden Christensen
  ChloŽ Sevigny
  Hank Azaria
  Rosario Dawson
  Peter Sarsgaard
  Steve Zahn

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