'Glass' Shatters Expectations

    3 Stars

    “”Shattered Glass,”” the film based on the true story of young writer Stephen Glass, sounds like a bore on paper. Glass fabricated 27 stories for a number of publications, most notably Rolling Stone and The New Republic, the latter of which finally discovered his fraudulence. But how do you make the story of an overly ambitious, overly imaginative writer work as a film?

    “”Glass”” builds slowly, but luckily the film feels neither slow nor rushed. It starts by showing Glass’s life at The New Republic, where a staff of young and talented writers throw ideas back and forth in a roundtable setting. These scenes are particularly well-crafted, displaying the underlying pressure in the apparently laid-back setting of working at a high-profile publication.

    Glass convincingly tells his co-workers ludicrous stories, such as of a hacker convention at which Glass witnessed a big-name company offer someone a job after he had hacked into their Web site. When an online publication finds holes in his story, a pursuit of the truth begins that sets the film into high gear with dramatic confrontations.

    The talented actors chosen to portray real people give subdued performances and, for the most part, it works, given the setting of a high-brow, professional magazine. In particular, Peter Sarsgaard’s performance is full of surprise and nuance as Chuck Lane, the new head editor at The New Republic when office favorite Michael Kelly (a brief but memorable performance by Hank Azaria) is fired. As the betrayed Lane, Sarsgaard is stoic one minute and fiery the next, displaying impressive depth.

    As a hothead reporter and a mousy writer, respectively, Chloë Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey are deft in roles that unfortunately relegate them to being protective and unsuspecting of Glass (whereas the men in the film are wise, envious and suspicious). The film also makes poor use of the interactions between Glass and his female co-workers in scenes that feel stilted.

    Surprisingly, one of the best things about the film is the naivete Hayden Christensen brings to the title role. He showed promise in the otherwise lackluster “”Life as a House”” but lost all subtlety as Anakin Skywalker in “”Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.”” Here, Christensen is given a tough job. He must be charming in order to decieve his unsuspecting co-workers, but he must also show the kind of deviousness that would lead him to such action. He pulls it off nicely, particularly in the strenuous scenes where Lane tries to squeeze the truth from Glass. You empathize with the stressed-out Glass, feeling sweat on your own brow as he faces off against Lane.

    At only 95 minutes, “”Shattered Glass”” ends exactly where it should, never becoming tiresome. The script may not take enough chances, but the film’s efficiency helps to create an intriguing look into the stressful world of journalism and the lengths people will go to in order to leave their mark on the world.

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