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Shattered Glass is a 2003 Americanmarker drama film written and directed by Billy Ray. The screenplay is based on a September 1998 Vanity Fair article by H.G. Bissinger. In it he chronicled the rapid rise of Stephen Glass's journalistic career at The New Republic during the mid-1990s and his steep fall when his widespread journalistic fraud was exposed. The film is based on real events and also captures the high-pressure world of national political journalism.

Plot summary

The film opens with Stephen Glass wandering through a trade fair featuring Monica Lewinsky memorabilia. In a voice-over, he criticizes reporters who show off and try to get ahead and recommends they try being humble and self-effacing instead. He is then seen giving advice to aspiring journalists in his former high school. The film cuts back to this scene occasionally throughout.

At The New Republic, Glass is known for his highly imaginative articles and amusing pitches at editorial meetings, although he expresses his lack of self-confidence to colleagues Caitlin Avery and Amy Brand. The staff is mentored by and respects editor Michael Kelly. They are less enchanted with fellow writer Charles Lane, who staunchly supports excluding photographs from the publication.

When Glass submits an article about the drunken antics and sexual escapades of Young Republicans at a convention, Kelly questions him about some of the facts in the story, particularly the mention of a mini-bar in the hotel room. Glass claims he erred by misdescribing what was in fact a small rental refrigerator. Despite the hotel confirming such appliances are available for guests, Kelly remains concerned the rest of the article is inaccurate as well. Kelly defends his staff against his boss, Martin Peretz, who had criticized them for using too many commas in an issue, and soon after is fired and replaced by Lane. Kelly's departure is very emotional and many question the decision.

In a later staff meeting, Glass emphatically discusses his latest article about teenaged Ian Restil, a hacker hired by Jukt Micronics, a high-tech software company in Silicon Valleymarker, after he manages to compromise their system's security. Glass reports Restil is able to negotiate a lucrative compensation package and is celebrated by his peers at a hacker convention. After the article is printed, Adam Penenberg, a writer at Forbes Digital Tool, an online Forbes publication, has difficulty corroborating nearly all of the facts in the story and questions its legitimacy to his editor. His colleague Andy Fox helps in disproving elements of the story, ranging from the existence of Jukt Micronics to whether the hacker convention ever took place. In a conference call that includes Penenberg, Fox, their editor, Glass, and Lane, Penenberg raises his issues with the story, including the phone numbers Glass provided as source material and Jukt Micronics's supposed website, which is not representative of a sophisticated company. Glass's responses are so unconvincing Lane begins to doubt him. Glass eventually claims he was tricked by his sources.

After the call ends, Lane demands Glass take him to the location of the hacker convention and the restaurant where he and his sources allegedly dined afterwards. He discovers the Bethesdamarker structure Glass claims was the site is closed on Sundays, and the restaurant where he claims they ate dinner closes at 3:00pm. Glass confesses he never attended the convention and relied on others for the information he used.

Lane is outraged by Glass' lies and supposedly sloppy reporting but, mindful of his own tenuous standing with the staff and of Glass' popularity among them, is uncertain how to proceed. He decides to place Glass on a two-year suspension. When more questions about the reporter's veracity arise, Lane orders Glass out of the office and confiscates his security access card. Searching through back issues of The New Republic, Lane realizes much, if not all, of Glass' previous work was partially or fully falsified, and decides to fire him. Upon his arrival at a staff meeting the following morning, Lane discovers the staff has written an apology for Glass' shenanigans to their readers. They spontaneously begin to applaud their editor, signifying their unity and determination to heal the magazine.

During a later meeting with Glass and his attorney, Lane begins reciting the names of magazine pieces he has concluded contain questionable material, and invites Glass to refute any of them. Glass sits silently as the titles are being read, and the screen dissolves to Glass' visit to his high school classroom, now revealed to be empty, another figment of Glass's imagination. Just prior to the closing credits, we learn Glass fabricated all or part of twenty-seven of the forty-one articles he wrote during his tenure.

Principal cast



Production

Producer Craig Baumgarten, working with HBO executive Gaye Hirsch, optioned H.G. Bissinger's Vanity Fair magazine article about Stephen Glass for an HBO original movie. They hired screenwriter Billy Ray based on the script he had written for the TNT film Legalese. Ray grew up with Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein as his heroes and studied journalism for a year. It was this love for journalism that motivated him to make Shattered Glass. A sudden change in management put the film into turnaround and it remained inactive for two years until Cruise/Wagner Productions bought it from HBO. They took it Lions Gate and Ray asked the studio if he could direct in addition to writing it. Ray stuck with the project because he knew Bissinger, having previously adapted one of his articles, "Friday Night Lights." The challenge for Ray was to make the subject matter watchable because, according to the filmmaker, "watching people write is deadly dull ... in a film like this, dialogue is what a character is willing to reveal about himself, and the camera is there to capture everything else". The breakthrough for Ray came when he realized that the film's real protagonist was not Glass but Chuck Lane. According to Ray, "as fascinating as Stephen Glass is by the end of the movie people would want to kill themselves - you just can't follow him all the way". He used the Bissinger article as a starting point which gave him a line of dialogue on which to hook the entire character of Glass which was, "Are you mad at me?" According to Ray, "you can build an entire character around that notion, and we did".

To prepare for the film, Ray interviewed and re-interviewed key figures for any relevant details. He signed some of them as paid consultants and gave several approval over the script. Early on, he spent a considerable amount of time trying to earn the trust of the people who had worked with Glass and get them to understand that he was going to be objective with the subject matter. The real Michael Kelly was so unhappy about how he was portrayed in Bissinger's article that he threatened to sue when Ray first contacted him about the film and refused to read Ray's script for two years, which he eventually approved. Ray attempted to contact Glass through his lawyers but was unsuccessful. Lions Gate lawyers asked Ray to give them an annotated script where he had to footnote every line of dialogue and every assertion and back them up with corresponding notes.

The night before principal photography began in Montreal, Ray screened All the President's Men for the cast and crew. He shot both halves of the film differently - in the first half, he used hand-held cameras in the scenes that took place in the offices of The New Republic, but when the Forbes editors begin to question Glass, the camerawork was more stable.

Ray's original cut of the film was a much more straightforward account of events but while editing the film he realized that it was not good enough. He raised additional funds to shoot the high school scenes that bookend the film.

Reaction

Shattered Glass premiered at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker and was shown at the Telluride Film Festival, the Boston Film Festival, the Woodstock Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival before opening on eight screens in New York Citymarker and Los Angelesmarker on October 31, 2003. It grossed $77,540 on its opening weekend. It eventually earned $2.2 million in North America and $724,744 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $2.9 million.

Critical reception

A. O. Scott of the New York Times called the film "much more than a knowing, insidery docudrama about a magazine that has long prided itself on its inside-the-Beltway knowingness", "a serious, well-observed examination of the practice of journalism", and "an astute and surprisingly gripping drama". He added, "A more showily ambitious film might have tried to delve into Glass's personal history in search of an explanation for his behavior, or to draw provocative connections between that behavior and the cultural and political climate of the times. Such a movie would also have been conventional, facile and ultimately false. Mr. Ray knows better than to sensationalize a story about the dangers of sensationalism. Shattered Glass is good enough to be true". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and felt the film was well-cast and "deserves comparison with All the President's Men among movies about journalism". Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A" rating and Owen Gleiberman praised Hayden Christensen's performance: "Right from the start, Hayden Christensen is a revelation, and not just because his performance, all mind games and subliminal facial tics, transcends the rinky-dink teen heroics of the Star Wars universe. It's because he lets us see that it's Glass himself who's playacting the role of an elite young Washington journalist".

USA Today gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised Peter Sarsgaard's performance: "Sarsgaard deserves more credit than he'll probably get for his multi-layered performance". In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "Shattered Glass begs a larger question: What sort of culture elevates Glass for his entertainment value, punishes him for being too entertaining, rewards his notoriety, and then resurrects him again as a moral object lesson?" Premiere magazine's Glenn Kenny wrote, "it’s Peter Sarsgaard, as the editor who serves Glass his just deserts, who walks away with the picture, metamorphosing his character’s stiffness into a moral indignation that’s jolting and, finally, invigorating". In his review for the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter wrote, "I particularly like the way Ray made no excuses for Glass and makes us see how shallow and cynical were his persistent cries of victimization. Ray makes us believe that we shouldn't care for Glass any more than he cared for his colleagues, his friendships or his profession. Which is to say, not a bit". Sight and Sound magazine's Edward Lawrenson wrote, "The results make for the most gripping mainstream US film about journalism since Alan J. Pakula's 1976 All the President's Men (the latter's crisp, unfussy visuals are emulated here by DoP Mandy Walker)".

Stephen Glass saw the film and found the experience "very painful for me. It was like being on a guided tour of the moments of my life I am most ashamed of".

Awards and nominations



References

  1. "Shattered Glass," Vanity Fair, September 1998
  2. BoxOfficeMojo.com


External links




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