Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Hoax

"The Hoax" (Lasse Hallstrom, 2007) The story of Clifford Irving's "Big Lie" (claiming to have co-authored billionaire Howard Hughes' auto-biography) which captured the imagination of the world for a time. His intricate scheme to defraud his publishers for millions of dollars was exposed as a hoax (Hughes even broke his long silence with a telephone press conference to staunch the madness--how's that for irony?) and Irving went to prison. Based on his own book, it should, of course, be viewed with some skepticism, as Irving is a supreme egotist. As it stands, Lasse Hallstrom doesn't quite let Irving become the hero of his own story.* Richard Gere portrays Irving as a weak, but cocky sociopath walking a high wire for so long that even he gets confused (Gere gives Irving a thick East Coast accent that the real Irving doesn't possess, but it feels right.) The real joy in the acting department goes to Alfred Molina as Irving's put-upon and quite incapable resarch assistant, Dick Suskind, who can't quite keep up appearances. His and Gere's by-play is often very funny. It is Lasse Hallstrom's lightest vehicle since...well, it's Lasse Hallstrom's lightest vehicle. One thing does raise eyebrows. Irving claims that documents incriminating Richard Nixon arrived un-announced on his door-step, and that information was a large factor in his resignation. The film is based on Irving's own account; It wouldn't surprise if he was making some vague stab at making his criminal activities seem heroic. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

* A visit to Irving's web-site reveals that he took his name off the film as "technical consultant" because he didn't like how he was being portrayed. That's what happens when you don't write it yourself, Cliff. Somebody else takes it through the spin cycle. I mean what did he think this was---"Charlie Wilson's War?"

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