In Case You Missed It: Shattered Glass (2003)
Sometimes an early performance can define a career. If you’re lucky its Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs., Bruce Willis in Die Hard, or Sandra Bullock in Speed. If you’re not so lucky, you’re Sofia Coppola in The Godfather Part III or Hayden Christensen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Thankfully, Ms. Coppola has found her niche as a writer-director will acclaimed titles like The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and Marie Antoinette. As for Mr. Christensen, his career has continued including box office success with Jumper but I think many will always associate him with his awkward and whiny work as a teenage Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel.
What you may have missed is his best performance as disgraced journalist Stephen Glass in 2003’s Shattered Glass. The film, written and directed by Billy Ray, chronicles the scandal surrounding Stephen Glass with the New Republic. Glass is seen as an up and coming journalist in the late 90’s with many eye-catching articles. The only problem is its discovered that most of his pieces are partly if not fully fabricated, or “cooked” as described in the film. Glass was able to elude suspicion for so long partly based on his charisma but also based on his ability to play on his peers’ insecurities. Any time we see him challenged, he immediately transforms into victim mode and interjects, “Are you mad at me?”
Per the film, Glass’ downfall is brought about by a story he completely invents about an infamous teenage hacker being recruited at an underground hacker convention. Glass weaves a story full of colorful details and we watch as he entertains his co-workers at a pitch meeting. Unfortunately, the story catches the eyes of a pair of writers from Forbes (played by Steven Zahn and Rosario Dawson) who are incredulous that they missed such a scoop. They investigate and are unable to corroborate any of Glass’ details. One of the best lines of the film is when Zahn is asked if anything checks out in the New Republic piece and he responds, “There does appear to be a state in the union named Nevada.”
In addition to the aforementioned Zahn and Dawson, the film has an entire cast full of good performances. Hank Azaria plays Stephen’s first editor who implies he was always suspicious of his work but turned a blind eye because he liked him. Melanie Lynskey and Chloe Sevigny play two of Glass’s co-workers who are his biggest supporters and protect him like a kid brother. And Peter Sarsgaard, in a Golden Globe nominated performance, plays the new editor whose initial reaction is to protect Stephen but loses faith quickly as the lies pile up.
But at the center of the film is Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass. We never get a neat explanation as to why he fabricates his stories. Is it laziness, too much imagination or maybe just the joy of pulling off a con but we watch breathlessly as Glass schemes and squirms trying to stay one step ahead of the impending truth. In an era of so-called “Fake News,” here’s a film that actually exposes some.
So maybe, just maybe there is a good actor to be found if you dig a little deeper and find a way to cast aside George Lucas’ unfortunate prequels. I know I try to everyday.