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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Shattered Glass (2003)


Damn, I’m scared to be a journalist now.

This fact-based film depicts the rise and fall of disgraced magazine journalist Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a staff writer at The New Republic and a contributor to Rolling Stone who ultimately fabricated many of his stories, which led to his downfall.

Writer-director Billy Ray takes a film that I had some little interest in at first, and totally takes it into places I was not expecting in the least bit. I mean because it does have Anakin Skywalker in it, and he just blows.

Ray does a tremendous job of telling the story: giving us the facts of what exactly happened, the tough world of journalism, and even a little character study of a sociopath. This all may seem a little too much for a story that’s about a dude lying, but it brings so much more depth to this story that as it developed more and more, I found myself more and more intrigued by this film.

I, myself, actually want to be a journalist and I found this to be a big warning for all journalists out there to not make up phony stories, even though sometimes they would be nice to hear. It’s not necessarily about making people happy with the stories, it’s more about telling the truth, and how we should all never try to make things up as they go along just for some kicks. This theme is amazing because the fact is that today reporters at every publication seem to be exposed for doing the same thing. You’d think the lesson would have been learned eventually, but it hasn’t.

The film doesn’t show Stephen Glass as this total dick-head of a dude who messed with his stories to be “fun”, he’s actually just a kid that messed up big-time and wanted nothing more to make people happy when they read his stories. I mean I actually did sort of feel for this kid, as did everybody in this film because this Glass kid, was so charming and nice that when the ish really started to hit the fan, everybody stuck up for him, except for the editor who was downright embarrassed when he let such fake stories go by him. This brings up some moral questions as to how you would feel if you were ever put in the same situation and how you would respond it.

However, the problem with this film is that even though they show us a nice-portrait of this kid Glass, we never really get inside of his mind except for a couple of dumb foreshadowing scenes. When this kid was on-screen, I was actually on the edge of my seat as he tried to cover up more and more of his lies and then saying it was just because he was in a state of panic. This all was interesting and the film could have actually went deeper into this character more to actually have us understand just why he did what he did, but the film never really does.

We get all of the who’s, the what’s, and the when’s of the story, but never exactly the why part. I think Glass wanted to just get his stories read and make people happy, but never understand as to why he lied about so many of his stories, and what lead him to continue the lies as it seemed like things were going from bad to worse for him. Was he a little crazy? Was he just trying to make it big? Or was he just an insane kid that never really got paid attention too that much because he was so charming? I never understood why Glass exactly did what he did, and that’s what kind of took me away from this tale to make it a little less interesting.

Judging by the poster to the upper-right, you probably already gave up all hope on this film because of that big head you see. Yes everybody, that is Hayden Christensen, but I have to say his performance as Stephen Glass is probably his best ever, and although that’s not saying much, it’s still great in and of itself. The melt-down for Stephen Glass is a slow one but the way Hayden handles it is very believably, especially the way he manipulates almost every one around him to the point of where of no one knows because its terribly subtle. Stephen Glass didn’t seem like a bad kid, just confused and way-over-his-head and Hayden’s performance is so terrific that it almost makes me forget about Anakin. OK, maybe I won’t go that far.

Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as Chuck Lane, the editor who finds Glass out for all of his lies. Lane is a great character because you can tell that he’s going to have some real impact on this story by the end of it, but you just don’t know how, and the way Sarsgaard handles every scene he has is just brilliant. Lane tolerates Glass the most even when the kid lies to him with every statement that comes out of his mouth, which is sad, because Lane really is the one who seems like the actual voice of reason here that knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and knows what has to be done. Great performance from Sarsgaard who is easily becoming one of those signature supporters you need in almost any film.

The rest of the cast is pretty good with the likes of Chloë Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey playing Glass’ two best girly friends; Hank Azaria as the nice and understanding former editor, Michael Kelly; and Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson are also very good as the two people who find all of the information out that Glass is lying about.

Consensus: The film may have missed a major up-grade in showing us more about the person of Stephen Glass, but other than that, Shattered Glass is phenomenal with great writing and insight into the world of journalism, and great performances from the whole cast, especially Christensen and Sarsgaard, who provide so much context for their characters by the end, that we actually know more about them then the actual story.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

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10 responses to “Shattered Glass (2003)

  1. Rodney Twelftree November 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Agreed – Hayden does a great job in this, and more than makes up for his stodgy turn as Annakin Skywalker. I agree with all your sentiments here, Shattered Glass is a terrific, if somewhat aloof, film about journalistic integrity. Watch it, people. Watch it now.

    • CMrok93 November 15, 2011 at 4:39 am

      It’s perfect for anybody who is looking for a career in journalism, and features great performances from the whole cast, especially Hayden. If only he could be better. Thanks Rod!

  2. Steven Flores November 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    This is the only thing that Hayden Christensen has done that is any good because he’s perfect to play that smarmy little shit. Yet, it was Peter Sarsgaard that really owned the film for me in the 2nd half as he just finds out the truth and knew what had to be done. I like this film a lot.

    • CMrok93 November 15, 2011 at 4:40 am

      They are both amazing and this film was very good. Even better for me because I want a career in journalism and the actual subject matter actually kept me more glued in. Thanks Steve!

  3. socoolyeah November 11, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Wow! I remember really enjoying this movie and your review has made me want to watch it again. I have worked in journalism and this film definitely warns you that you need to get your facts straight before writing a story – and these days the increasing pressure on the media means that reporters are even more likely to cut corners or fabricate details to get their story. Christensen is great in this – one of the only decent movies he has done. It also makes me wonder what’s happened to Chloe Sevigny – she was becoming a big deal when this movie came out but nowadays, not so much. Great review.

  4. joem18b November 11, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Another on this theme, which I think I liked better, was Hoax, with Richard Gere.

  5. Danny November 17, 2011 at 7:15 am

    This is one that I like throwing on for friends who’ve never seen it. It does a great job ratcheting up the tension as the lies pile on top one another.

    You might also want to check out Breach, which is by the same director. Not quite as good, but still pretty fascinating stuff.

  6. Marc November 23, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I like the praise for Hayden as he did pretty great in this…especially how terrible and wooden he was as Mannequin Skywalker. Looking at this it’s hard to believe its the same guy. Actually you can blame Lucas for soul sucking all the heavy weight talent in those prequels…but I digress.

    Also to show you he isn’t a fluke in this, check out his brief portrayal of Bob Dylan in the Sienna Miller film ‘Factory Girl’…guy is a fine actor. Smooth write up Dan, been meaning to check this out again so thanks for the inspiration

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