There’s a bogus sort of genius to Billy Ray’s Shattered Glass, which recounts the events surrounding Forbes online journalists busting Stephen Glass for cooking up stories for The New Republic. The worst that can be said about the film is that it doesn’t concern itself with the nature-or-nurture anatomy of Glass’s crimes. Then again, can you imagine having to suffer through scenes showing a young Glass living out Oedipal melodramas that would lazily explain his snarky, passive aggressive personality? As played by a remarkable Hayden Christensen, Glass kills his co-workers with thoughtfulness, an elaborate emotional con-job that not only speaks volumes about his guilt but also evokes the way he sculpts reality. Just as there’s no pretext to this madness, Ray doesn’t explain how fact checkers at New Republic allowed one piece after another to fall through the cracks during Glass’s late-’90s stint at the magazine. That’s because Ray tells the entire film from the perspective of Glass’s friends and fellow journalists, who may as well be the doting parents children are continuously trying to impress and afraid of disappointing. Because the audience never sees how the young man turned into a fabulist or how he pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, Shattered Glass needs to be approached as an elaborate emotional set piece. Journalists who’ve ever feared handing in a story on time or scrounged desperately for a good idea will probably relate to the film more than others, but that’s to trivialize its universal appeal. For all its flaws (the ridiculous empty-class metaphor, the schoolhouse sequences that substitute for voiceovers, and the self-congratulatory, heartwarming bookends), this is a film that frighteningly speaks to our lingering juvenile fears. Christensen is a revelation. He nails both that cloying puppy-dog expression Glass uses to seduce the world around him and that moment of mental retardation that kicks in when you’ve been caught in a lie and your Id struggles desperately to take over. Because watching the actor squirm under pressure is as frightening as it is entertaining, Shattered Glass speaks simultaneously to our humanity and sense of moral outrage.
I promise never to complain about grain ever again, especially when it comes to indie films with docu-realist aesthetics. That said, there’s really no excuse (or explanation) for the amount of dirt visible on this print of Shattered Glass. I’ll take the specks during the interior New Republic scenes, but not the high school framing sequences or the vivid fabulist sequences. Overall: A fuzzy, somewhat lazy presentation, even though the lack of edge enhancement is to be admired. As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track: The film is all talk, and since it’s more or less clear for at least 55% of the production, it also gets a passing grade.
Very strange. The reason to buy this Shattered Glass DVD is the commentary track by director Billy Ray and former New Republic editor Chuck Lane, and yet you won’t find it advertised on the back cover. This is an all-around great track: Ray makes excellent arguments for the film’s fantasy framing sequences and wishes the real Stephen Glass could have validated them, while a humbling Lane repeatedly reinforces just how scary his former employee’s deceptions really were. And who the hell needs a cheesy making-of documentary when Stephen Glass’s "60 Minutes" interview covers all the bases? Unlike the insufferable Jayson Blair, Glass comes off as genuinely remorseful, and it’s this sad humanity that Christensen delicately tapped into.
Even you don’t think Christensen successfully suppressed his sex appeal, you have to admit that he can play the pussy well.