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Shattered Glass - Preview and US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

IN 1998, just months after being named editor of The New Republic, Charles Lane fired Stephen Glass for making up a story that ran in the magazine, under the headline ‘Hack Heaven’.

At once outrageously detailed and seductively just-ahead-of-the-curve on the biggest business story of the day, ‘Hack Heaven’ was about a teenage computer hacker whose agent essentially extorts a lucrative package from a software company that had been one of the hacker’s victims.

‘Hack Heaven’ was the last article Glass ever wrote, but, as it turned out, it was not the first time Glass had played fast and loose with the truth.

In the end, Glass made up all or part of the facts behind 27 of the 41 articles that he wrote for The New Republic during his career there. As a freelance writer, he also wrote tainted stories for such publications as George, Harper’s and Rolling Stone.

Needless to say, these events form the basis for new movie, Shattered Glass, which is earning rave reviews for its talented young cast, including Hayden (Star Wars) Christensen, as the reporter in question.

Yet, according to director, Billy Ray, it was a story that was simply too good not to tell…

In a statement issued as part of the film’s production notes, he reveals: "It was with a mixture of dread and awe that I first learned of the saga of Stephen Glass through Buzz Bissinger's Vanity Fair piece, ‘Shattered Glass’. As soon as I'd read it, I knew that this was a story I wanted to tell.

"Glass' rise and fall resonated with themes that matter to me: the responsibility of the press, the dangers inherent to a cult of personality, and the day-to-day ethical dilemmas that define us as individuals.

"Glass quickly became, at least for me, the face of something larger than himself, larger even than the magazine he so badly damaged. He began to represent a wake-up call about the state of journalism in this country, one made even louder by this spring's developments of Jayson Blair at the New York Times.

"When people can no longer believe what they read, their only choices will be to either turn to television for their daily news, or to stop seeking out news entirely. Either path, I think, is a very dangerous one for this country."

The film co-stars the likes of Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson and Hank Azaria and is due for a UK release in the New Year.

US reaction

Critics in America have already warmed to the movie, however, lavishing it with the type of headlines that Glass, himself, would have been proud of.

Entertainment Weekly, for instance, awarded it the maximum A grade and opined that, ‘right from the start, Hayden Christensen is a revelation’.

The New York Observer, meanwhile, predicted that ‘even if you don't care much about the responsibility of the press, I think you will find this cautionary tale one terrific movie’.

Hollywood Reporter found it ‘a compellingly competent telling of the scandalous fall from grace of New Republic staff writer Stephen Glass’.

While the New York Times labelled it ‘an astute and surprisingly gripping drama not only about the ethics of magazine writing, but also, more generally, about the subtle political and psychological dynamics of modern office culture’.

The Los Angeles Times wrote that ‘more than being a smart and accurate look at magazine journalism - no small matter - Shattered Glass is also a compelling portrait of a psychosis at work’.

And USA Today felt that ‘Christensen is so good in the role ... that you wonder anew what went wrong with his performance as Anakin Skywalker in the last Star Wars’.

Reelviews, meanwhile, felt that while ‘Shattered Glass may be light when it comes to psychological questions, but its detailed accounting of Glass' actions makes for fascinating viewing’.

And E! Online wrote that ‘while we never find out why Glass did what he did, the tale of how it all fell apart is a good one’.

The Los Angeles Daily News even suggested that it is ‘an interesting study of high-stakes reporting that will probably be shown at journalism schools for at least a generation or two’.

And Variety concluded that it is a ‘credibly and absorbingly relates the tale of journalistic fraud perpetrated by young writer Stephen Glass at the New Republic five years back’.

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