I’ve taken two classes at NYU with Adam Penenberg, the reporter who broke the Glass case. He has told the story repeatedly, so I knew it well before I saw the movie. We studied Glass’s “Jukt Micronics” story in Penenberg’s Press Ethics class (you can find my own class blog entries at that link).
The movie opens with information about the New Republic and a voiceover by the Stephen Glass character, who gives decent but cynical advice to a class of high school students. We then watch Glass devolve from the savvy prodigy he appears to be into the hysterical mess he becomes upon getting caught. In the process, he overworks himself and cuts corners to make himself look better. He charms his coworkers, rallying their support so that when the truth comes to a head, they blame their editor for having a vendetta against Glass. Office politics make it easy for Glass to get away with things, and a brand-new form of media – online reporting – is what ultimately brings him down.
Worth a rental
To be honest, I’m glad I wasn’t aware of this movie when it was in theaters; I don’t think I would have paid $10 to watch it. Since I knew the whole story going in, I found Stephen Glass to be less a tragic-but-sympathetic character and more a smarmy, manipulative jerk. Also, Penenberg is not fully developed; time constraints obviously don’t allow it, but it still would have been interesting to see more of the reporter I know show through (and Steve Zahn looks nothing like Penenberg)
While we’re on the topic of Steve Zahn, his character and Peter Sarsgaard’s looked way too similar. It was, at times, too hard to tell who was yelling at Glass.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. You may enjoy it more if you don’t know the whole story before the film starts. But if you don’t, I highly recommend researching it after you see the movie. It’s a good story, and deserved to be a movie. This movie, though, was never a blockbuster, and that seems right.