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Shattered Glass
2003 - PG-13 - 103 Mins.
Director: Billy Ray
Producer: Craig Baumgarten, Adam Merims, Tove Christensen, Gaye Hirsch
Written By: Billy Ray, Buzz Bissinger
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn
Review by: David Trier
   
This is a film inspired by a true story about an article about a true writer who wrote fake articles for a real publication. Although the stakes don’t seem particularly high for us, the conflict of Shattered Glass does make for an entertaining little biopic.

With some mild disappointment, The New Republic magazine is arguably the liberal voice of America in print. A young writer named Stephen Glass (Hayden “Anakin” Christensen) is making a name for himself writing colorful reports and editorials that stand out from the humdrum. But when some journalists at Forbes online magazine (Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson) can’t validate any of the sources in Glass’s latest piece, several eyebrows are raised. It is up to Glass’s editor, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) to determine the truth. But having recently replaced the beloved Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria), Lane must do it without the support of his staff. His discovery is disturbing to say the least.

Shattered Glass is sluggish at the start if you’re not already familiar with the source material. It seems to be a rather uninspired biography of a young and ambitious journalist. But when doubts are raised about his journalistic integrity, the pace picks up quickly and drives us toward a satisfying conclusion.

Christensen is playing a particularly annoying character, but he does it convincingly, particularly as his mental stability appears to unravel. I can’t seem to bring myself to like him much after Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of a Horrible Film, but here he isn’t being asked to be too ridiculous – just a little. Again, for those who don’t know the source material, there is an intriguing doubt as to whether Glass is a conniving cheat or just naïve and misunderstood.

However, the best reason to see this film is the marvelous Peter Sarsgaard whose sympathetic Chuck Lane is both strong in his convictions and vulnerable in his humanity. All around, his delivery is flawless and he carries the film even more than the title character. Check out The Salton Sea for another decent example of his work.

The supporting cast is also strong, but some parts seem a little superfluous. Chloe Sevigny is likable as a staff writer, and the others are believable (particularly Chad Donella), but none of the characters seem entirely necessary except to show their loyalty to Glass. It gets a little hard to swallow that all these people would be defending him in light of how obviously he seems to be lying. Steve Zahn is always a joy to watch and he has good chemistry with Rosario Dawson, although she doesn’t seem to be in the film for any justifiable reason. Hank Azaria is excellent, as expected, in the role of Michael Kelly, who some might remember having since lost his life in Iraq.

What starts as a seemingly cliché storytelling device of Glass recounting his experience to a group of hopeful high school students, is ultimately used as an effective tool of deception. Screenwriter Billy Ray does a good job as a first-time director, starting with simplicity and then making the film gradually more and more interesting.

Shattered Glass recounts an unsettling story, but it has little to say about the significance of media incompetence. Some might yearn for something greater than just an interesting anecdote. It is, after all, based on an article. On top of that, it’s based on a relatively insignificant article and shouldn’t be compared to the kind of shocking discoveries and lies we’ve seen in the major media since. But still, a likable cast and decent directing make this film entirely watchable.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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