Lions Gate Films
Written and directed by Billy Ray, based on the article
by Buzz Bissinger
Produced by Craig Baumgarten, Marc Butan, Tove Christensen, Gaye
Hirsch and Adam Merims
Starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë
Sevigny, Melanie Lynskey, Steve Zahn, Hank Azaria, Rosario Dawson,
Luke Kirby and Jamie Elman
(out of four)
shows that Steven Glass probably exhausted more energy to maintain
his lies than he would have with the truth. The likable go-getter
reporter who fabricated 27 of the 41 stories he wrote for The New
Republic could probably have researched a factual story in the same
amount of time it took him to make up people, companies, laws and
But it wouldn’t have so smoothly fit into what the readers
and Glass’ associates wanted to believe.
Writer/director Billy Ray’s film studies the Glass drama through
the office politics and personal turmoil that a life’s thread
of lies altered, up until the lies turned into a noose that hanged
Glass’ career and damaged his prestigious magazine’s
reputation in 1998. Perhaps the scariest thing about Glass is that
he always seemed the model journalist—eager to please and
improve, helpful to everyone on staff.
“Shattered Glass” shows a man whose office conduct and
ability to spin a yarn put him in such good favor that no one would
suspect that his stories were fabrications, even though it’s
rather obvious reading over them now. His apparent knack for finding
intriguing stories and writing about them well earned him offers
from notable publications including The New York Times Magazine,
Harper’s and Rolling Stone.
Hayden Christensen, best known for his uncharacteristically stiff
performance as Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: Episode II—Attack
of the Clones,” offers his best performance to date as the
pleasantly neurotic Glass. Christensen takes on a love-hungry personality
that, regardless of how much he looks or sound like the actual Glass,
always feels like the character rather than the actor.
But Glass himself is an actor of sorts. He improvises outlandish
excuses that grow more and more unlikely as his stories unravel.
No one wants to believe this unraveling because Glass is a nice,
He wows his fellow writer/editors in meetings as he explains his
latest wonderfully perfect investigations, then adds that the story
is silly and he’s probably not going to use it—which,
of course, isn’t true. He helpfully watches out for his co-workers
with meticulously edited drafts of their stories and checking their
facts. He buys the junky trinkets that the magazine’s secretary
sells on the side. His modesty only makes his colleagues like him
more, and they worry that he’s overworking himself.
The film’s five years of hindsight add a new dimension to
the too-good-to-be-true tales of fiction. As Glass talked about
how a radio station put him on the air after the Evander Holyfield/Mike
Tyson incident when he claimed to be an expert on biting, it’s
clear that checking this story would be as simple as calling the
radio station. Or contacting people from one of the companies that
he made up. But after his stories sneaked past The New Republic’s
fact-checking department on the basis of his fabricated notes, people
never complained about being misrepresented because they didn’t
exist, and the sheer fiction of the pieces worked to Glass’s
Ray presents his material through a talk that Glass gives to his
old journalism teacher’s class. Through this, the film re-enacts
some of Glass’ stories and tells the story of the writer’s
relationship with former New Republic editor Mike Kelly (Hank Azaria).
Kelly brought Glass on and believed his version of a story when
a Young Republican convention organizer challenged claims that some
students were smoking pot, getting drunk and engaging in sexual
Writer/associate editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) takes over
as editor after the New Republic’s publisher fires Kelly over
disagreements over content. Many of the writers are loyal to Kelly
and are suspicious of Lane’s motives, putting him at a disadvantage
when a story begins to look suspect.
The excellent Chloë Sevigny plays Caitlin Avery, a good friend
of Glass and loyal to Kelly. Avery looks out for Glass, advising
him on his articles and telling him not to go to law school at night—which
he does anyway to please his parents.
“Shattered Glass” puts this desire to please on the
top of Glass’ motivations. “Are you mad at me?”
he asks people when they catch him lying. He seems to believe that
whatever he does, it’s in the name of giving the people the
type of stories that they want. Since Kelly looked out for his writers,
he expects Lane to do it, even when the writer is in the wrong.
He doesn’t expect anyone to object to this, and even when
he’s obviously caught at various offenses, he still tries
to weasel his way out of it.
The height of this behavior comes in an intense sequence when Lane
has Glass take him to the site of a story on hackers to show him
how everything happened. This comes after reporter Adam Penenberg
(Steve Zahn) from Forbes Digital Tool online magazine—a far
less esteemed publication than The New Republic’s status as
“the in-flight magazine of Air Force One”—tries
to follow up on with the hacker and company and informs Lane that
no element of the story checks out.
And in a way, we wish it would. The principal cast makes the film
believable with a series of wisely, if unconventionally, assigned
roles, with Christensen’s work at the center. These good people
don’t deserve what the person they believe is their friend
has done to them.
We like Glass as his colleagues do because he tells us what we want
to believe in an energetic, yet not kiss-ass, fashion. We want to
go on believing that his stories are true, or that he was misled.
And that is perhaps the scariest part.