Directed by Billy Ray, starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Steve Zahn, Melenie Lynskey and Chloe Sevigny.
The ascent of Hayden Christensen to competence as an actor seems the most noteworthy feature of this movie initially, his nervous mannerisms and cloying personality making a truly believable if unsympathetic character. Leaving the blue screens and red faces of the 'Star Wars' debacle behind him, he anchors this low-key production with ease.
His character is introduced as a young go-getter, making a triumphant return to his old college to give a talk on how to make it in the world of journalism. Through this talk he narrates his own story as it is paralleled with increasing irony to the events as they occurred.
As staff journalist for 'The New Republic', we see Stephen Glass wowing his co-workers and superiors with his inventive proposals and often quirky articles. It is all smiles and backslapping as we are given a portrait of a young man climbing the corporate ladder with ease. With the mentor-like backing of his editor Michael Kelly (Azaria) and the admiration of his peers, an all too-perfect picture of success emerges.
With the promotion of colleague Chuck Lane (Sarsgaard) to the post of Editor following the departure of Kelly, Glass' fortunes begin to change. A story on the activities of computer hackers attracts the attention of a rival Internet publication, and the articles with which his house of cards has been built come under greater scrutiny.
Christensen plays the role of the compulsive liar perfectly, becoming ever more frantic and pathetic as his deceptions are revealed, but it is Sarsgaard who really shines.
His character is at first portrayed as a bad guy of sorts, questioning the facts behind Glass' articles and refusing to let trust be the sole basis for their professional relationship. The subtle shift in the way he is viewed by both his staff and the viewer, mirrors that of Glass and is brilliantly realised.
Finding a method with which to reheat yesterday's news and serve it to an audience already familiar with the true story of Stephen Glass is the challenge confronted by director Billy Ray, and he chooses to tell it straight, which ultimately leaves the story feeling slightly stale.
The most obvious comparison to such a press-orientated film is 'All The President's Men', but the sense of suspense that that movie created, even though the outcome was known by all, is absent here.
Although the director's refusal to judge or apply motive to his characters is admirable (we never learn why Glass has such a tendency to lie), the result is an unremarkable if well-acted account of events as they happened.
A compact and diverting movie, that is never tempted to overreach, it certainly adds some background to the cover stories of Stephen Glass.