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Early in 1971, McGraw-Hill passes on Clifford Irving's new novel. He's desperate for money, so, against the backdrop of Nixon's reelection calculations, Irving claims he has Howard Hughes's cooperation to write Hughes's autobiography. With the help of friend Dick Suskind, Irving does research, lucks into a manuscript written by a long-time Hughes associate, and plays on corporate greed. He's quick-thinking and outrageously bold. Plus, he banks on Hughes's reluctance to enter the public eye. At the same time, he's trying to rebuild his marriage and deflect the allure of his one-time mistress, Nina Van Pallandt. Can he write a good book, take the money, and pull off the hoax? Written by
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'The Hoax' is an endlessly charming and witty film, blending comedy with drama for great and successful results. Richard Gere is at the top of his game as he commands the screen, prosthetic nose included. Lasse Hallstrom's, whose films included 'Chocolate' and 'The Cider House Rules', keen sense of direction keeps the film fresh and engaging. It ultimately makes for a genuinely pleasant experience and one of the year's better pictures.
Desperate for success and wealth, Clifford Irving is about to pull off the hoax of the century. Set in the 1970s, Irving has pitched and sold his idea of a Howard Hughes biography to a premiere publishing company. Problem is, none of it's true. Irving, with his friend Dick Susskind at his side, will spin an intricate web of lies as he sets out to compile a fraud biography of Hughes and set-up staged interviews with the wealthy recluse. He soon becomes so deep in all of his lies that it seems inconceivable that he'll find his way out. But with each twist and turn, Irving matches with one of his own.
What makes 'The Hoax' work? It appears to be nearly flawless. Director Lasse Hallstrom keeps viewers in the moment with a nice, speedy pace. And so 'The Hoax' never wears out its welcome. It's such a quirky and original project that entertains without taking itself too seriously. It's light, witty humor mixed with dramatic effect to create what is at times a film with a dual personality, but it works out just right. 'The Hoax' has an intelligence that's sharper than most, keeping the elaborate and offbeat heist cleverly afloat rather than becoming dull and over worn. An outrageously true story of an outrageously true crime.
You may say that 'The Hoax' ultimately works because of one man, and that's Richard Gere. His best performance in years, Gere commands the screen as the man behind the heist (and nose). He's sharp, humorous, tragic, and flawed. The whole package. He almost forces you to emotionally invest in his character, because he's almost too charming not to. You'll find yourself rooting for him and his cause. It's one of the best performances of the year. Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, and Marcia Gay Harden all benefit from a great script. Molina stars as the humorously bumbling sidekick who possesses what Gere does not: a conscious. Davis is wonderful as the publishing agent, and while Harden's role doesn't present her with much screen time, she delivers a strong outing with what she's given.
'The Hoax' is a remarkably well-made, well-told account of a bizarre heist. The truth is stranger than fiction, and while it's wildly strange, it's wonderfully fun and silly yet tragic and serious when it has to be. 'The Hoax' is no hand-me-down of the heist genre, but rather a worthy and memorable addition. It's one of the year's best films, and no doubt you'll get a kick out of 'The Hoax'.
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