Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Monologue: "We blew it, Caitlin"

Hello, all! Kurt Osenlund here from Your Movie Buddy, making my inaugural contribution to The Film Experience while Nathaniel explores the (very) wet and (sorta) wild country of Iceland (having paid a visit myself in March, I can safely say he is having one unique vacay).

After scouring the countless monologues filed away in my memory, I settled on Peter Sarsgaard’s climactic outburst in Shattered Glass, the supremely watchable journalism drama from writer/director Billy Ray. Released in 2003, it's the movie that kick-started my undying affection for Sarsgaard, and I know I'm not alone in that regaard (I certainly wasn't alone while heavily sighing after Sigourney Weaver didn't announce his name on Oscar nomination morning). Sarsgaard was solid in Boys Don’t Cry, but that film certainly didn’t offer the scene-stealing showmanship he wields so effortlessly as The New Republic’s conscientious office-bad-guy, editor Chuck Lane.

Having watched Shattered over and over, I specifically relish the moment Chuck finally blows his top when confronted by colleague Caitlin (Boys costar Chloe Sevigny), who, like the rest of his staff, has been bewitched by charming, delusional story-spinner Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen).

I once recited this passage for an assignment in an acting class. Naturally, I just couldn’t match Sarsgaard’s precisely controlled intensity:

“Caitlin, when this thing blows, there isn't even gonna be a magazine anymore. If you wanna make this about Mike, make it about Mike, I don't give sh*t. You can resent me, you can hate me, but come Monday morning, we're all gonna have to answer for what we let happen here. We're all gonna have an apology to make. Jesus Christ, don't you have any idea how much sh*t we're about to eat?!? Every competitor we ever took a shot at, they're gonna pounce, and they should. Because we blew it, Caitlin. He handed us fiction after fiction, and we printed them all as fact. Just because we found him...entertaining. It's indefensible. Don't you know that?”

This speech comes just after a heated verbal volley between Chuck and Caitlin, beginning, of course, with Chuck’s cathartic eruption of, “I fired him!” and ending with a dig from Caitlin regarding the cuddly editor Chuck replaced (that would be “Mike”). Just one scene ago, Chuck was upstairs, leafing through back issues and scrutinizing Glass's phony articles, in a sequence briskly edited by Jeffrey Ford. It's the revelation Chuck needed to get people on his side, including the audience. Our patience with Stephen dwindles scene by scene, but before that point, we, too, are bewitched by him (despite all his sniveling). Though it requires some trust on the part of the viewer (it's not like Chuck's looking at concrete evidence), that confirmation of what Chuck already knew affords him a long-awaited release, and the chance to show he's really not the bad guy after all. As he drills some sense into Caitlin, our allegiances are definitively shifted.

Shattered misconceptions
I've been rooting for Sarsgaard ever since this performance, which did nab him a Golden Globe nod and recognition from the Indie Spirits, the NSFC, the OFCS and critics' groups in Boston, DC, Chicago, Kansas City, Toronto and San Francisco. I've been waiting patiently for him to once again be part of the awards season discussion (come on, Green Lantern!).

You might say this little Shattered monologue served as the crux of my devotion. Chuck won me over in the movie; Sarsgaard won me over for good. You?

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