Shattered Glass (2003)

Many of the movies I’ll be reviewing this summer will be from IFC, which I believe is possibly one of the best channels ever, and is partially the reason I live with the inadequacies of Comcast.

Those of you who are educators might have encountered fabricated writings, and felt the anger associated with such. Others may have read a fabricated memoir, or at least watched a reality show which you later found out was fabricated (all of them).

I am no journalist, and, as you can see from this blog, never will be. However, I have always been intrigued with the idea of journalistic integrity as a kind of code of honor, never to be betrayed under any circumstances. The classic idea of journalism being seldom rewarded hard work, long hours, and the occasional, improbable rendezvous with a high-profile insider or whistle blower has always been something that I’ll enjoy without reservation in a movie.

Shattered Glass is no exception to that, but for one problem: Hayden Christensen. Something about his line delivery just ruins it for me. Okay, I get it, he’s supposed to be an attention grubbing people-pleaser who uses his knack for noticing finite details to fabricate his stories, but must he deliver every line with a whiny, adolescent inflection? Apparently, yes.

Luckily, his performance is balanced out by the editor types of Perter Sarsgaard and Hank Azaria. Azaria comes across perfectly as the much beloved father figure holding the writing staff of The New Republic magazine together, while other actors just kind of flatline in the movie. Early tension (which looks like plot driving filler until the pieces come together in the end) revolves around the domineering owner of the magazine overworking the writers and the resulting staff shake up. Sarsgaard, who comes out on top of the whole mess, gets much better as the movie goes on, and his transformation in the movie is probably the best thing I can recommend about the film.

A big source of tension which I suppose is meant to heighten the eventual revelation of Stephen Glass’ fabrications is the prestige of the magazine, with characters mentioning more than once that it is the “In-Flight Magazine of Air Force One.” It didn’t do much for me, however, as I’ve never been on Air Force One. Perhaps a sample of an article that actually influenced national policy decisions would have been useful instead of constantly hinting at it. Maybe the writers felt we were too dumb, who can say?

Another lost opportunity was the the print v. internet journalism tension, which was completely lost in a post-paper journalism era. This movie had the chance to create a really cool cultural artifact, and while the discussions about early 2000’s technology were pretty good, they only elicited a vague sense of nostalgia for things like AOL Member Pages and the once dominant Yahoo! search engine as opposed to documenting a boiling point in the news industry. I wish I had watched this seven years ago when it came out, so I will rate it:

6/10 (not safe if drowsy)