Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Hoax

I haven’t been moved to go to the movie theater much this year and even my Netflix queue has been quiet for a while but as the year winds to a close I’m endeavoring to get caught up on some movies that I’ve missed this year. Case in point: Lasse Hallstrom’s interesting character piece, The Hoax, which came out to generally good reviews earlier this year.

The movie chronicles the audacious 1970s hoax perpetrated by Clifford Irving involving a supposed autobiography of the famously reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Irving scammed more than a million dollars from McGraw-Hill and Life Magazine and was well on his way to getting away with it before Hughes surfaced (in a news conference held via speakerphone) to scuttle his play.

The Hoax, with a screenplay based on Irving’s own book about the whole affair, juxtaposes the unfolding of Irving’s elaborate…and frankly bold…scheme against the events of the times (the Vietnam War and the protests against same, the Nixon Administration, etc.) to intriguing effect. It also strongly suggests that Irving’s plot was allowed to go forth due to a double dealing conspiracy between Hughes and his people and Nixon and his people.

I don’t know about that last bit but I do know that at the heart of this movie…which itself is briskly paced, engaging, and witty…is a bravura performance by Richard Gere that captures the charm, the intelligence, the deviousness, the callousness, and, eventually, the paranoid fantasies of Irving. Gere is amazing and so is Alfred Molina, playing Dick Suskind, Irving’s conflicted partner in crime; they play off each other with such fierce chemistry that they make the movie soar.

The rest of the cast…including Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, and Hope Davis…are fine enough in underwritten supporting roles.

Clifford Irving is a charming rogue (something testified to by venerated CBS newsman Mike Wallace in one of the DVD’s bonus features) and this movie, however true it is itself (it’s based on Irving’s book so it’s skewed towards romanticizing his actions to some extent), has a real charm of its own.

1 comment:

Modern Princess said...

I understand what you mean about catching up on movies. My husband and I just haven't been able to get to the theaters like we wanted to. I'm still trying to figure out how we missed such movies as the newest Harry Potter. And although we subscribe to netflix, most of the time we get a movie and it just sits for a month before we watch it. I'm betting netflix is loving us right about now!

With the winter months coming up, and more time spent indoors, it is time to play catch up. Thanks for the tip on "The Hoax." It sounds like it will be good!