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The Hoax (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

The Hoax

THE HOAX (2007)

Starring Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Julie Delpy, Eli Wallach, John Carter, Chris Evan Welch, Zeljko Ivanek, David Aaron Baker, Peter McRobbie, John Bedford Lloyd, Okwui Okpokwasili, Stuart Margolin and archival footage of Howard Hughes.

Screenplay by William Wheeler.

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

Distributed by Miramax Pictures.  115 minutes.  Rated R.

Clifford Irving was sort of a footnote in history, but he was also a fascinating contradiction.  He was charming and yet he was a user.  He was a brilliant writer and yet he had no scruples towards journalistic ethics.  He was a fearless charlatan and yet he was always afraid of getting caught.  He was the writer of an autobiography — and it wasn’t about him.  He led directly to the journalistic scandals like Steven Glass.  He believed in the sanctity of words and yet he sprouted lies.  He was sane and at the same time dangerously delusional.

His specific crime — and at the same time his defining artistic moment — was selling and writing an autobiography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.  Of course the fact that he never met the man or even spoke with him was a problem, but not one that couldn’t be overcome with a lot of charm, imagination and a certain way with bullshit.

The Hoax does drop some hints that perhaps there may be some truth to his claims, that perhaps the Hughes Corp did use him as a patsy.  Then again, this movie was based on the book written by Irving on the subject, so there is an agenda there.  Also, of course, Irving was always able to spin a good yarn.

And that is what The Hoax is — one hell of a fine yarn.

Richard Gere plays the man as a basically good, moral man who truly believes he is doing the right thing.  He is just pushed by circumstance and financial hardship into working this angle.  Even so, he tried to keep it on the up and up.  He made the book as true to the real world as he could possibly could.  He truly had convinced himself that Hughes was just a great conduit to get his writing out.

The Hoax feels like one of those great lost movies from the 70s, where good people do morally questionable things and drag others into the morass.  It is full of intrigue, back room deals, cons and rationalization.

And, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger from about that same time in history, it has the added benefit of being mostly true.

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2007  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 4, 2007.

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