Monday, July 13, 2015

Shattered Glass

It's interesting that the story that would be the genesis of New Republic reporter Stephen Glass' downfall involves a computer hacker who is given a job at the company whose system he hacked.  The article, a complete fabrication by its author, nonetheless does mirror those times when a victim is so impressed by their oppressor's craft that they can't help but offer them some sort of alliance.  Reward their acumen.

As I watched 2003's SHATTERED GLASS part of me kept thinking that instead of canning the guy maybe New Republic should've rather been impressed with this obviously talented writer and reassigned/referred him as a fiction editor somewhere.  Yes, make him apologize to your readers, say his mea culpas and then take the guy out for a celebratory scotch, already.

Of course there are issues of journalistic ethics, plagiarism and a myriad other concerns.  And I'm certainly not advocating the sort of methods Glass employed.  Maybe I'm just a snark who is mindless and disrespectful of the scared code of journalism and "reporting the truth".   Another unpopular view I sometimes hold regards "insider trading" in the stock market: if we engage in this capitalistic game which is essentially a legal horse race anyway, those with privileged knowledge perhaps should win.  You can't create a zero sum game and then cry foul when someone gets an angle.  Yes, I know.  Thus speaketh my evil persona.  I rub my face and remember my faith, my morality.

Glass' story (which unfolded in the late 1990s) seems less shocking with each passing year.  With media outlets' hysterical 'round the clock reporting.  Highly respected news anchors falling from grace over partial truths.  Many younger folk get their news from the likes of John Stewart.  My wry self might respond, the news deserves a Daily Show treatment anymore.  Domestic and world events (and people's reactions to them) are increasingly beyond satire.  But maybe it's always been that way, and now we just have more reporters.  Keep in mind I'm not downplaying the seriousness of much of the terror and oppression in the world.

Billy Ray, who cites Woodward and Bernstein as childhood heroes, wrote and directed SHATTERED GLASS.  His work is competent but strangely uninspired.  A bit like a fairly well crafted TV program.  Many viewers seem fairly easy to please regarding this sort of method.  With all the cries of how much better  many television programs are than films these days, I'd guess that several folks will give SHATTERED GLASS high marks.   The film remains compelling if you're already interested in the subject.

Hayden Christiansen does fine as Glass, though if you watch interviews with the real guy you'll see that the actor really soft pedaled the creepier aspects of his personality.  I was squirming during a DVD extra as Glass attempts to explain his way out of several questions.  Would a more accurate portrayal have made the film better? Different, for sure.  A deeper psychoanalysis of the guy could've allowed a mini classic.  I did enjoy the relationship between Glass and his new editor, Chuck Lane (an excellent Peter Sarsgaard), the latter of whom gradually learns the truth.  This element of the story elevates things a bit.  But overall, SHATTERED GLASS is a essentially a watchable, reasonably compelling drama that draws inspiration from a film like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN but doesn't come anywhere near its mastery.
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