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  Hoax, The The Film Of The Book Of The Fraud
Year: 2006
Director: Lasse Hallström
Stars: Richard Gere, Marcia Gay Harden, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Julie Delpy, Stanley Tucci, Eli Wallach, Zeljko Ivanek, David Aaron Baker, John Carter, Judi Barton, Christopher Evan Welch, Okwui Okpokwasili, Peter McRobbie, John Bedford Lloyd, Stuart Margolin
Genre: Comedy, Drama, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1971, writer Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) thought he was doing very well as he sat in the offices of McGraw-Hill, a New York publisher, and was told that his latest work, a novel, was guaranteed to be printed by them. He returned home to his wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden) with the good news, which cheered her up as some of their belongings were being repossessed, and he prepared to reap the rewards of his new success. That was until he received the unwelcome news that a key player in the publishers was reluctant to put the book out and the deal was off; Irving was desperate, but what could he possibly do?

He thought of something, rest assured, and the results of that were detailed in his book The Hoax, although if you watched the film, you might find discrepancies between the way he told it and the way the movie makers told it. So much so that Irving disowned the end product, which he had worked on in some capacity, complaining that they had played fast and loose with the truth, a complaint apparently presented without any irony whatsoever. For Irving was the man who perpetrated one of the biggest scandals in publishing of the twentieth century, which was only exclipsed by the Hitler Diaries of the next decade.

Irving had claimed to have had access to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, something many in the eccentric businessman's inner circle did not even enjoy, and somehow this tall tale spiralled out of control until Irving was awarded a million dollar advance for an utterly fictitious book. He solved that by roping in his friend Richard Susskind (here a pointedly sweaty and awkward Alfred Molina), and influencing his wife to perform some of his dirty work, and the result was a dictated memoir, based on Susskind's research and an unpublished book by a former Hughes aide (Eli Wallach) looking to make a little money in his twilight years. Not to mention a number of made up anecdotes about living it up with Ernest Hemingway or visiting the very best resorts.

This in spite of Hughes having been believed to have spent his own twilight years stuck in his hotel room, hopelessly paranoid. Most of this is in the film, but for reasons best known to themselves, they chose to do a spot of invention themselves, so once the premise was established, the curse of the twenty-first century conspiracy movie took hold, and that what The Hoax ended up as. Director Lasse Hallström and his scriptwriter William Wheeler would have it that Irving's machinations were of far more cultural significance than a clever conman getting a lot of money illegally, and nobody really getting hurt in the long run, for according to this, he was partly responsible for bringing down the Richard Nixon administration.

The filmmakers concocted a whole subplot to bring in shady behind the scenes figures to threaten Irving and his supporters, including a made up box of files that provide incriminating links between Hughes and Nixon, which was all very well, but the true story was good enough not to need this kind of unnecessary fictionalisation. This was a particular shame because Gere, for one, was putting in one of his best performances, bringing out the charm, vanity and two-facedness of his character without turning him into a caricature, all with a flair that many would not have believed the star possessed. The pleasures were therefore more incidental, and based around seeing these smug individuals getting their comeuppance, be it the publishers or the hoaxers, though whether they were in real life as they were depicted was open to question. The Hoax was absorbing, light and fleet-footed, but too keen to convince itself that it was more important than it was. Music by Carter Burwell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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