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Shattered Glass

What's surprising about the case of the vile Stephen Glass — in which a young reporter at the New Republic exploited holes in the system to fake almost 100 stories — is that it has resulted in a pretty good movie. Glass was the scion of a wealthy family. He went to one of the best colleges. He was the editor of his school paper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, widely considered one of the best college papers and a breeding ground for reporters. Glass ended up working at the New Republic, then a neo-Liberal publication with an influence far in excess of its circulation. There, Glass dazzles his editors, first the late Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria), then his replacement Charles Lane (Peter Sarsgaard). Glass apparently gave good meetings, his blend of modesty and arrogance just the right recipe to woo his potential staff competitors. At TNR, Glass was famous for his wacky stories, such as an account of a hackers convention where a teen blackmails a major computer company into giving him a job, or his report of a convention selling jokey Monica Lewinsky memorabilia. When publisher Marty Peretz replaced Kelly with Lane he inadvertently spared Glass from early exposure. Adam L. Penenberg (Steve Zahn), a reporter at the web version of Fortune, attempted to follow-up on Glass's hacker story, but he found an empty trail. At first the generous view was that Glass had been duped by the hackers. But gradually it dawns on Lane that Glass is a prevaricator of the first water. Chloe Sevigny's character attempts to defend him, and even Lane has sympathy for him for a while, both viewing Glass as a troubled kid with a great future ahead of him. But soon the tide changes. Shattered Glass is a straightforward account of the Glass case, visually not much more elevated from the level of a TV movie of the week, but blessed with outstanding performances from an excellent cast. Writer and director Billy Ray does, however, use a clever framing device, one that evaporates significantly along with Glass's career. Peter Sarsgaard and Hank Azaria are especially good at being quiet but firm editors, garbed in the traditional journalist uniform of khakis and dress shirts, tie askew. And after demonlover and Dogville, Sevigny continues to impress with her fierce confidence on screen. Lions Gate's DVD of Shattered Glass comes in a fine anamorphic transfer (2.35:1). Audio is a serviceable DD 5.1. Extras consist of an audio commentary track with writer-director Ray and the real life Charles Lane. Also on hand is the "60 Minutes" segment with the fey and still-earnest Glass, aired around the time his novelization of events was published. In the audio track Lane praises Ray for getting so many of the details right (despite the fact that the film was shot in Montreal), such as the observation that Glass would walk around the New Republic offices in his stocking feet. Lane is careful to describe what really went through his mind, and discriminate between what really happened in certain key scenes and what the film can present (despite the necessary condensations of filmmaker Shattered Glass seems to be amazingly accurate). They have a solid camaraderie and it's one of the more interesting audio tracks, on an important topic that transcends the movie it's about. In the "60 Minutes" profile, Steve Kroft not only interviews Glass, but also Lane and another senior editor, Leon Weiseltier. To Kroft, Glass allows as how he was addicted to the excitement of pitching stories at meetings and reveled in the attention. Keep-case.
—D. K. Holm

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