"Journalism is just the art of capturing behavior," Stephen Glass (Hayden
Christensen, Anakin Skywalker in the most recent STAR WARS episodes), tells an
awestruck high school journalism class. A preppily dressed, investigative
reporter, Stephen was a rock star in the journalistic world in 1998 when this
true story takes place. Having written pieces for George, Harper's and Rolling
Stone, Stephen was then a famous reporter for the highly influential, liberal
publication, The New Republic. The periodical is called "the in-flight
magazine of Air Force One," Stephen brags beamingly to the class, in which he
was a student just seven years previously.
You may notice that accuracy wasn't mentioned in his definition of journalism.
The engrossing SHATTERED GLASS, one of this year's very best films, is a twist
on ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. This time it isn't the president who is under
suspicion but a reporter. (Ironically, in the background in one scene is a New
Republic cover story about President Clinton's lies.) "See what happens when
greatness is demanded of you," Stephen's adoring teacher tells her class. The
quote refers to his passion for excellence, but it turns out to have a more
important and sinister meaning.
A guy who had a strong need to be liked and to be extremely successful, Stephen
became everyone's best friend at the magazine office. His fellow reporters
loved and respected him. He was a very funny guy, so, while the movie about
him is quite chilling when you think about its implications, the film is quite
funny as well as marvelously entertaining. It is also incredibly well acted,
not only by Christensen, but also by Peter Sarsgaard who plays Chuck Lane, the
editor caught in the middle of the firestorm that he wished he had prevented.
Under a previous editor, Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) -- who was recently killed
while reporting in Iraq -- Stephen's lies were first glimpsed. It was a small
matter really. In his piece on drug and alcohol abuse at a Young Republican's
convention, Stephen said they got the booze from little bottles from the
mini-bar. When the alleged participants complain that the hotel in question
doesn't even have mini-bars, Stephen admits his error. He saw the bottles, he
confesses to Michael, and assumed that there was a mini-bar. Actually, after
checking his notes, he says the bottles came from a portable refrigerator.
Stephen's massive fraud begins to unravel when a real investigative journalist,
Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn) from the online publication, Forbes Digital Tool,
starts to check the facts in a story by Stephen called "Hack Heaven." After
detailed research, Adam concludes that the only truth in "Hack Heaven" is that
Nevada is, in fact, a state of the Union. Everything else from the names to
the companies to the events were all completely bogus. Sitting at the next
desk to Adam, Andie Fox (Rosario Dawson) is delirious with the magnitude of the
story Adam is uncovering since The New Republic, she says, "is the snobbiest
rag in the business." Although Adam knows he has uncovered something big, it
turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg.
SHATTERED GLASS is a gripping tale that is as fun as it is mesmerizing.
Of course, I could have made all of this up. It falls to you, my readers, to
check my facts.
SHATTERED GLASS runs 1:43. It is rated PG-13 for "language, sexual references
and brief drug use" and would be acceptable for kids around 9 and up.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes