The printed word can be a powerful thing, especially when it appears in a publication like The New Republic, which bills itself as the official in-flight magazine of Air Force One. The New Republic may not have a huge circulation, but it does have the ear and trust of people who matter, lawmakers, politicians, and competing journalists who would love nothing more than to see the magazine fall from grace.
Long before journalist Jayson Blair hoodwinked the New York Times into printing a barrage of fabricated and exaggerated articles, Stephen Glass of The New Republic was already creating a name for himself. Young, enthusiastic, good looking and capable of spinning a good yarn, Glass was a star writer at The New Republic. Considerate and almost apologetic for his ability to track down and write engaging cover stories, Glass had the world by a string. Then his string of good luck broke, tarnishing his star and forcing The New Republic and other journals to examine their own integrity.
In his debut as a director, screenwriter Billy Ray (“Volcano,” “Hart’s War”) examines how one person could pull the wool over his superiors eyes not once, not twice, but with more than half of his 40+ printed stories. Like “All The President’s Men,” “Shattered Glass” is a fascinating study of how good reporting can turn an ordinary story into a great story, and how necessity and greed could turn a promising writer into a charming con artist, someone capable of pulling all the right strings in order to cover his tracks.
Those tracks include a lengthy process of spell and fact checking, cross referencing, source reliability and editorial scrutiny. How Glass was able to sidestep every safeguard put in place to insure the authenticity of every story makes for compelling viewing. Hayden Christensen is quite good at conveying the underlying tension in Glass’s life as he scrambles to make a purse out of a sow’s ear. We feel little sympathy for Glass, whose childlike responses and reactions make him appear spoiled and ungrateful.
Trust and integrity are two pillars of journalism. Editors trust their reporters to get the facts right, and publishers trust editors to maintain the integrity of the publication. Glass abuses both, first with trusting editor Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria), who would rather give Glass the benefit of a doubt, and then friend and replacement editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), who immediately suspects that all is not right on the other side of the looking Glass.
Writer-director Billy Ray does a splendid job of making “Shattered Glass” important, a morality tale about stealing rather than earning one’s dreams.
GLASS MENAGERIEYouthful exuberance runs amok in morality tale
Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Chloe Sevingy, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson, Melanie Lynskey. Directed by Billy Ray. Rated PG-13. 95 Minutes.
LARSEN RATING: $7.00