(Dir. Billy Ray) (2003)
All is not well at the o-so-holy New Republic…the in-flight magazine of Air Force One (well, when Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama are aboard). It seems their star reporter, Stephen Glass, has been cooking-up stories! Hold the presses! Has he dissed Bernie Sanders as a Marxist? Pointed out that Obama has sub-contracted US foreign policy to the Russians? No. He’s made up stuff.
This is an earnest, pretty well-made morality tale, with solid performances, but it suffers from over-earnestness, tin and thin character development, and, mostly, a lack of scripting to sell-us against a prevailing sense of unreality, that alleged professionals could be so bent-out of shape by their contempt for anything and anyone not inhabiting their peculiar worldview, that they would slurp up Glass’s leftish slop. Did they suck-it-up because it played to their own prejudices? (That’s usually how conmen succeed!)
But still, it is a compelling and worthy attempt – as the ‘story’ shreds and shreds it is painful, and awful, to watch. We cite for particular commendation, Steve Zahn as the IT reporter who ‘outs’ the story, Cas Anvar as his exigent boss, the gorgeous Chloë Sevigny as Caitlin, Stephen’s defender, and, particularly, Peter Sarsgaard (in an unusual ‘nice’ role) as the new editor (Chuck Lane), stuck with the Herculean labour of cleaning-up the mess. The scene where Chuck confronts Caitlin about the consequences of printing fiction as fact, is electrifying: “Every competitor we ever took a shot at: they’re going to pounce, and they should, because we blew it, Caitlin.”
We must also mention, in minor parts, Melanie Lynskey, who is fine though marginal here, but we really want to mention her for a matchless performance in Heavenly Creatures. And Ted Kotcheff, the director of the great film Wake in Fright, is effective as the magazine’s then owner, Martin Peretz, the man who objects to comma errors. Peretz was for and against a few other things too, issuing a statement in 2006 that: The New Republic is very much against the Bush tax programs, against Bush Social Security ‘reform,’ against cutting the inheritance tax, for radical health care changes, passionate about Gore-type environmentalism, for a woman’s entitlement to an abortion, for gay marriage, for an increase in the minimum wage, for pursuing aggressively alternatives to our present reliance on oil and our present tax preferences for gas-guzzling automobiles. In other words, speeches first, facts later (or fiction, in the case of the New Republic, as at 1998 at least).