Before the recent scandals at the New York Times, there was a reporter named Steve Glass who fabricated stories while writing for the political magazine The New Republic. “Shattered Glass,” a new film, tells the true story of Steve Glass and how he became caught in a web of lies.
In 1998, Steve Glass was a successful writer of informative and entertaining articles. Almost all his colleagues loved him. Many other magazines were pursuing him. But in May of 1998, he wrote a story about computer hackers—a story that drew the interest of an Internet reporter named Adam Penenberg, who investigated the facts.
In the film, Penenberg soon discovers conflicts in the article, forcing questions about Glass’ integrity into the open. Glass’ editor stands by him until the conflicts become so great that even he begins to question where the truth ends and lies begin.
Before turning to the themes of this fantastic script, it should be noted that “Glass” has a perfect cast. For anyone who questioned why George Lucas cast Hayden Christensen after Christensen’s stiff dialogue recitations in “Attack of the Clones,” his portrayal of Steve Glass proves this young actor has great talent.
Almost equal to Christensen’s performance is Peter Sarsgaard who, as Glass’ editor, dislikes Glass personally, but feels a responsibility to support the young man when the allegations start. Chloe Sevigny, who should have won the Oscar for her nominated work in “Boys Don’t Cry,” is also good as Glass’s co-worker and friend. These are just three exceptional performances in this fine cast.
“Shattered Glass” is an exceptional film with at least two important messages. The first echoes that old saying, “One lie leads to another.” As the noose of the truth tightens around his neck, Glass uses lies as defensive weapons to ward off his enemies and to earn sympathy. He uses his boyish innocence and charming good looks to hide the fact that he is pathologically dishonest. His dishonesty is personally destructive, and ends up affecting his friends as well as the magazine for which he writes.
The other message is that true repentance means more than an apology. Each time Glass is close to being caught in a lie, he childishly blurts out, “Are you mad at me?” When he is caught, his standard response is, “I’m sorry.” This is symbolic of a culture that believes “I’m sorry” is the placebo for all personal conflicts.
Christians have perpetuated this philosophy by claims that forgiveness follows a verbal request—without a change in lifestyle. Ultimately, does God honor insincere requests for forgiveness? An apology to keep peace—or as a distraction, as Glass uses it—is not one with authentic remorse; therefore, it is meaningless. Spoken apologies are authenticated by actions displaying true regret and repentance.
Like “The Secret Lives of Dentists” released a few months ago, “Shattered Glass” depicts the destructive consequences of sin. Though “Dentists” is a very good film, the message rings truer in “Glass” because this story is based on actual events.
In the former, the sin was adultery; in “Glass,” it is bearing false witness. “Dentists” made very little money at the box office; “Glass” has no violence, no action, no nudity and no sexual content, so it probably will stir little attention from multiplex patrons.
It would be nice if all those who endorse posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses and schools would start patronizing small films that actually affirm the truth that breaking God’s Law is a bad plan of action. Alas, these people, along with most others, will choose a film this weekend where the hero joyously violates several commandments; worse yet, they will recommend the film to their friends.
Film critic Roger Ebert has called “Shattered Glass” the best and most accurate film about journalism since “All the Presidents Men.” That may be true. However, the best reason to see this film is for its messages about immoral choices.
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual reference and brief drug use
Director: Billy Ray
Writer: Billy Ray
Cast: Steve Glass: Hayden Christensen; Chuck Lane: Peter Sarsgaard; Caitlin Avey: Chloe Sevigny; Amy Brand: Melanie Lynskey; Adam Penenberg: Steve Zahn; Michael Kelly: Hank Azaria.
Visit the movie’s official Web site.