Shattered Glass: a fascinating liar makes good

Nov. 6, 2003, midnight | By John Visclosky | 17 years, 2 months ago

Hayden Christensen should grow up. In Shattered Glass, Christensen plays real-life The New Republic reporter Stephen Glass, who was fired after the paper discovered that he had fabricated more than half of his stories. In Glass, Christensen plays the same overgrown man-child who resorts to childish means to escape the weight of adult responsibilities as he did in last year's Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. The only difference is that this time around, the Christensen is actually quite good.

Glass is the worst sort of brown-noser: the type the audience cares about. He completely fabricates most of his stories- characters, events, settings and all. The young reporter is so clever in his deceptions that neither his sweet and unassuming editor, Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) nor his coworker Caitlin Avey (Chloe Sevigny) realizes that Glass is lying. Glass' deceptions begin to unravel Chuck Lane (a quietly explosive Peter Sarsgaard) replaces Kelly. Lane questions Glass' honesty when the reporter publishes an article about a supposed convention for Jukt Micronics, a fictional software company. Thus the downward spiral begins.

Far from being boring, Glass has all the makings of a solid journalistic thriller. The film builds with a carefully wielded passion, thanks largely to director Billy Ray, whose somewhat stylized vision of deception proves quite interesting. Glass is no master criminal, and the film suffers somewhat for its small scale. Whereas All the President's Men involved the indictment of the executive branch of the government, Shattered Glass is simply the tale of a grossly under-matured man trying to please, well, everyone. In the end, the audience has to ask why they should really care about a reporter who fabricated a few stories. The answer is because Christensen and Sarsgaard make us care.

Christensen is at his most impressive, waving around a self-deprecating smile and a nervous charm with the confidence of a mature method-actor. Christensen makes us care about this sad-sack reporter, even if we're not quite sure why. Sarsgaard is also at the top of his game. He approaches Lane with an excellent understated rage that makes him simultaneously lovable and despicable; it is plain to see why the staff of The New Republic hates Lane, even though the audience wants him to expose Glass' treachery. The other characters, most notable Segivny, are underused but still delightful in their small roles.

Shattered Glass is one of the season's most surprising treats, a genuinely engaging thriller that satisfies in a big way. Christensen is no Nixon; neither is Sarsgaard an equal match to Woodward and Bernstein; but, wow, do these boys ever take this smalltime movie for a ride.

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John Visclosky. John Visclosky is, suffice it to say, "hardly the sharpest intellectual tool in the shed," which is why he has stupidly chosen to here address himself in the third person. He's a mellow sort of guy who enjoys movies and sharing his feelings and innermost … More »

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