Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Shattered Glass

Shattered Glass is the twelfth movie I've seen in the theater this year.

The movie is about the young (median age: 26) journalists and editors at The New Republic. One of the journalists, Stephen Glass, spent most of his career at the political magazine fabricating stories. One of the editors, Charles Lane, discovers this and deals with the consequences.

This is a simple story, but it's told so very well. It's also a kind of 'genre' movie: the journalistic drama. I'll admit that I'm drawn to journalistic dramas. My two favorites: All the President's Men and The Insider. Shattered Glass actually makes a brief reference to the first one.

Since "Shattered Glass" is based on fact, it was up to writer/director Billy Ray to compress and composite the characters and events to make a dramatic picture. He did this superbly. He somehow made the work of writers and editors very dramatic.

The acting is straightforward but the casting was perfect. Juxtaposing the dashing Hank Azaria, who plays Michael Kelly, the editor who gets fired for defending his writers with Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Charles Lane, as the stiff, unpopular successor sets up the office politics brilliantly. Hayden Christensen plays the story fabricator. As the movie develops, his character becomes more and more desperate and the audience along with the editors begin to doubt even the memories that the film presents as his own.

This is a terrific movie, and it honors the genre of journalistic dramas.

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