I had never really heard of this movie so I was down when Elizabeth got really excited saying we needed to watch it. The movie is extremely intense in a great way because you don’t necessarily like or trust the protagonist. I find that pretty interesting because it kind of turns the main character’s enemy as the real hero of the film, Peter Sarsgaard, who is a complete badass in this film. I guess I really don’t know Sarsgaard from a lot so it was nice seeing one of his most memorable roles. I think this is a film I’m glad I watched when I was older though because I don’t think I would have been as into it when I was younger. I think I would have seen Stephen Glass more as a victim than the annoying kid he is.
If you have not seen this watch it now!
Recently Chris and I were having some kind of conversation about movies that are really good at having tension and Shattered Glass was the very first movie that came to mind, even though I hadn’t thought about it in a while. Thinking about it made me get excited about it, so we watched it almost immediately. IT IS SO GOOD.
It’s a true story about Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a young journalist who writes for The New Republic and how a big story (and many, many others) of his turned out to be a complete lie. I saw it when it first came out, when I was a sophomore in high school. It had a real impact on me. I felt like I could feel what Glass was going through so well; not in a sympathetic way, but in that it made me physically nervous to watch him go through the process of getting caught. I’ve never plagiarized or been accused of plagiarism, but my 10th grade English teacher did ask to see a book I cited for a paper, I assumed to verify that it was real. And even though I had the book at home, I was so overcome with anxiety that maybe this teacher thought I might make up a source that I brought him the book and also offered to take out the whole section of my paper that cited it. He obviously didn’t think it was that big of a deal because he flipped through the book once and said everything was fine. But that feeling was very strong and when I watched Shattered Glass for the first time it was like watching that feeling play out in front of me. I can take or leave Hayden Christensen in almost everything, but he’s perfect as Stephen Glass, mostly because Stephen Glass is portrayed as kind of a pathetic kid in the end.
Shattered Glass also introduced me to Peter Sarsgaard (I’m not counting Boys Don’t Cry because that movie did not make me want to have anything to do with him). Hayden Christensen is good here, but Peter Sarsgaard is incredible and given the subject matter of the movie (sounds kinda boring) it might seem like I’m exaggerating but I’m reallyyyyy not. He plays Chuck Lane, Stephen’s co-worker who then replaces Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria_ as the editor of The New Republic. Michael Kelly is so beloved by his staff that it makes it impossible for Chuck to get any kind of respect or camaraderie out of the staff when he replaces Michael. A rival magazine finding holes in one of Glass’ stories happens as Chuck is just beginning to find his footing as an editor and the subsequent investigation into Glass’ work puts Chuck against the entire staff because they all love Stephen Glass, too. It’s just beautiful watching Chuck’s character evolve through Sarsgaard; the first mention we hear of any suspicion from him is when he casually knocks on Stephen’s office door and asks if he can see copies of his notes and sources, not an atypical request from an editor like that. Immediately Stephen says “Are you mad at me?” clearly expecting the kind of response he would get from Michael Kelly, one that would reassure him. Instead, Chuck seems totally put off by the fact that this grown man, his employee, so quickly starts acting so defensive and childish. It’s a small moment that makes Chuck stand out as a realistic guy, someone who’s trying to be a good editor, not someone’s dad. And the best part is that Chuck wants to believe Stephen. Although Stephen pretty much hates Chuck, we get the impression that Chuck actually really likes Stephen and wants him to succeed, not to mention the fact that he wants Stephen to be right for obvious reasons. But eventually, the evidence against Stephen is so great that Chuck has to completely abandon personal feelings and just be Stephen’s boss, even if it means yelling at him while Stephen cries, even if it means his staff hating him, and even if it means firing Stephen. Because as he tells Chloë Sevigny in a great speech after he fires Stephen, they’re journalists first and if they took one look at Stephen’s work with their own journalistic eyes it would be so clear that he was lying and it’s something they’re all going to have to answer for. She really can’t refute that.
Shattered Glass is incredibly paced and is seriously one of, if not the most tense movies I’ve ever seen that doesn’t have to do with horror or war or anything crazy. The first time I watched it I identified with Stephen, this kind of weak seeming, well-liked young writer. Watching it now, I identify with Chuck and how satisfying it is to see him stand up and take care of business. Especially now that I have a job where I have to manage people, seeing Chuck be such a badass, awesome boss is actually kind of inspiring, as cheesy as that sounds. I feel like Shattered Glass isn’t talked about much, but it is insanely good.