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Shattered Glass

  Shattered Glass
ChloŽ Sevigny tries to decide if Hayden Christensen is really a man, or only a handsome woman.

© 2003, Lions Gate
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An accurate account of a complicated mess, that is how director Billy Ray describes "Shattered Glass," the true story of the meteoric rise and hard fall of talented yet immensely flawed journalist Stephen Glass. And because it doesn't slant or judge but sticks to the facts, Ray's directorial debut is a compelling film that raises important questions about the responsibilities of the press and, to an extent, the gullibility of its readers.

Glass was not the first, nor, alas, will he be the last (Jayson Blair of the New York Times being the latest) journalist to succumb to the temptation of fabricating for a better story, but his fall from grace is one of the most highly publicized. This film, based on H.G. Bissinger's September 1998 Vanity Fair article "Shattered Glass," had one obligation in particular, according to director Ray, "to get the facts of this story straight. It would be supremely ironic to make stuff up just to suit the movie-making process."

With the cooperation and dedication of those intimately involved in the true story, particularly the late Michael Kelley, then-editor of The New Republic, and his successor Chuck Lane, as well as many insiders whose identities have been protected by the creation of several composite characters, Ray has created a story with great authenticity, what he calls the cinematic equivalent of good reporting. "When people can no longer believe what they read," he explains, "their only choices will be to either turn to television for their daily news, or to stop seeking out news entirely. Either path, I think, is a very dangerous one. That's why I wanted to make the film."

At only 24, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) is a rising star at Washington, D.C.-based current events and policy magazine The New Republic. His uncanny ability to find fabulous stories has catapulted him quickly from editorial assistant to reporter to associate editor. The humble, self-effacing, thoughtful yet hugely talented young writer charms everyone on staff. In 1998, a few months after Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) takes over from Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) as editor of the magazine, Glass writes "Hack Heaven," the story of a computer hacker gone corporate. But when reporter Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn) of Forbes Digital Tool wants to do a follow-up and begins digging for information, the facts suddenly don't add up and Glass finds himself scrambling to defend his credibility.

With the story cleverly framed by a visit to his high school to inspire future generations of journalists when, actually, he has already been found out and the news of his treachery is about to break, watching Christensen as Glass is excruciating in the best possible sense of the word. Supported by a fabulous cast that includes ChloŽ Sevigny as writer-reporter Caitlin Avey (a composite of several people still employed by The New Republic) and Melanie Lynskey (who's popping up all over the place from "Sweet Home Alabama" to "Ever After," but for me will always be the girl from that other, terrific Peter Jackson movie, "Heavenly Creatures"), Christensen brilliantly portrays Glass' enigmatic personality as well as his frenzied scramble to keep up the charade until the bitter end.

Filmfodder Grade: B








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