The Hoax
Director: Lasse Hallström (An Unfinished Life, Chocolat, Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape)
Novel: Clifford Irving
Screenplay: William Wheeler
Producers: Betsy Beers, Mark Gordon, Leslie Holleran, Joshua D. Maurer, Bob Yari
Starring: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Julie Delpy, Eli Wallach
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min
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reviewed by Misael Soto
     Take elements of Speilberg's Catch Me If You Can, mix it up with a bit of Scorcese's The Aviator, and fit all into your typical movie-bio framework and you've got Lasse Hallström's latest, The Hoax. Finally I can say this without questioning or wondering if I'm lying to myself: this is a good movie! This is the best film I've seen this year thus far. While not exactly an utter breakthrough or a completely original venture, the film pulls off its initial and somewhat ambitious purpose tremendously well. Hallström fills his film with clear parallels to our world while making them vague enough so that the story can breathe and hold itself up on its own two feet. And what a thrilling account the story of novelist Clifford Irving’s incredible hoax proves to be.

      Not only does he fool one of the biggest publishing companies in the country into giving him one million dollars for the unpublished biography of Howard Hughes without ever having met the eccentric billionaire, but Irving very nearly gets away with it. And not only is it the exciting story that kept my attention but also its very real main characters and the problems they face throughout the entire. In some of the most fascinating scenes in the film Irving, at one point, becomes obsessed with the details of his scheme, nearly as fanatical as Hughes himself. All of this attention of plot is great but it’s this film’s attention to meaning that sets it apart.

      Putting it frankly Irving, portrayed by Gere in his best ever performance, represents our current president who through clever lies and charisma has gained power and money almost instantly. Irving is irrationally power hungry and will do anything to keep his con afloat. The only problem is that his power is gained through and by using others, an empty form of power that can only be sustained by more and more lies and quickly fizzles away as suddenly as it was bestowed. Hallström and writer William Wheeler have constructed an extremely clever and well-paced script.
It’s filled with great twists and turns as well as a great amount of scathing social commentary disguised a bit amidst engaging drama, not unlike last year’s Inside Man.

      And yet, a carefully crafted script and thought provoking social commentary aren't all you need for a great film. You also need great performances, which this film has; Gere is a bit better than adequate as Irving (the portions when he very nearly goes mad are near brilliance) while Alfred Molina is charming as his bubbling sidekick. But you also need two things The Hoax does not attain: great cinematography (a certain sixth sense for imaginative and effective camera work) as well as an original plot set up. Instead we are given more of the same: typically "safe" and merely sufficient cinematography and your average movie-biography plot right down to the ridiculously overused flash forward opening sequence which we eventually run into later on in the film.

      So, while not wholly original, The Hoax is a really good film. It’s one worth watching if not for its fascinating true story then for its thought provoking, nearly caustic message. Oddly enough for such a biting critique of our times, The Hoax ends on a rather positive note. Even the most morally lost among us can change and/or learn their lesson. The Stones say it best in their song which closes the film, "You can't always get what you want . . . but if you try some times you just might find you get what you need."

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Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site

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