Stephen Glass is apparently a brilliant writer. His features and stories make him stand out from the crowd, and Stephen soon begins to shoot up the journo ladder. Respected American political publication New Republic hires our boy for his way with words and his ability to churn out engaging copy. Newly appointed editor Charles Lane picks his articles apart, revealing gaps and inconsistencies. The jig is up. Stephen’s editors and sources discover his fraud and the New Republic swallows its pride by printing an apology to its readers. And obviously fires Stephen.
This real life spectacle – adapted from an article no less – is, at least, a little interesting and opens up questions that ponder Stephen’s mind set and motivations. Questions that are left dangling by director Billy Ray’s decision to not touch on the psychological but rather the practical. What could be an intense character study of a man out of place is actually a dryly-mechanical examination of how the fraud was discovered.
Hayden Christensen is a perpetual annoyance as Stephen. He flashes his puppy dog eyes too often and petulantly whines his way through the film. This all makes it a little hard to believe that Glass was actually a potential journalistic wunderkind. It also made me question why everybody in the New Republic office held him such high personal regard: as he is portrayed Stephen Glass must’ve been an insufferable man-child. And not in the fun Will Ferrell mould.
The supporting cast isn’t up the much either. The usually dependent Peter Sarsgaard and Chloë Sevigny appear to just coast through the film with a sense of detachment and an air of apparent disinterest. Hank Azaria, though, possesses enough warmth as friendly editor Michael Kelly to be a performance that isn’t based around smugness. He makes for a welcome relief, but possess barely any screen time, and before long the film begins to suffer under the weight of walking charisma vacuum Christensen.
Conventionally shot in unimaginative style, and bookended by cheesy voiceovers, the film lacks any real charisma and fails to utilise the story to its full potential. However, the events that lead up to Stephen’s discovery are presented in a lightly engaging fashion, so it’s not a complete snooze fest.
If handled differently, Shattered Glass could have been an impressive psychological thriller. But as the film stands – hampered by listless performances and a dull script – it is a stitled and boring exercise in adaptation.
Incidentally, Season 5 of The Wire features a sub plot that’s similar to Shattered Glass’ so instead of wasting your time on a film starring an actor so wooden I could sand him down and turn him into a nice coffee table, go and watch potentially the greatest TV show ever made.