Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Hoax

The Hoax was a delightful, and overlooked film from early 2007. The movie is a dramatized account of Clifford Irving (Richard Gere), author of an exclusive autobiography of Howard Hughes. The problem? It was all made up. The movie follows the sometimes hilarious, and sometimes tragic efforts to keep up this ruse, and salvage his writing career.

Gere does in the Hoax what he does best. Takes a moderately sleazy character, and plays him with such charm, that you have to half believe what he says. He goes to great lengths to keep up the charade, creating absolutely vivid stories on the spot, and convince everyone around him. His writings even convince the only reporter to have in depth experience with Hughes, ("Capturing all of his mannerisms and speech patterns"). It's interesting how people are captivated by this struggling author only when they think what he's saying is true, as opposed to simply very good stories.

The character isn't all fun, however. As people begin to get more and more suspicious he gets more and mores desperate and paranoid. Veteran director Lasse Hallstrom includes scenes that force you to question whether their real or not. Does Hughes actually capitalize on this media frenzy as a distraction to his failing airlines? Does he use Irving to send a message to Washington that he's really still in charge? Or is all about Irving getting lost deeper and deeper into the character of Howard Hughes- so deep that he loses track of what's real? The audience is never shown for sure.

The best part of the movie was Irving's writing partner, Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina). He is the most truly conflicted character, drawn in by the promise of fame and money (and Irving's smooth talking ), but continuously second guessing the idea. After his rather human turn as Spider Man villain, Doctor Octopus, he's shown to apt at tackling some complex characters.

Interestingly, the real Clifford Irving did not like his portrayal in this movie (even though he signed off on it), saying that it made him look bad. That's actually kind of funny that a person who was made famous by making up someone's life is upset by his own portrayal. Indeed, some of the conflict between him and Suskind, and published, Shelton Fisher (Stanley Tucci) seemed a little tacked on. It worked in the story, but didn't seem very real.

Regardless of how accurate the story is, it's a captivating movie. Both Irving and Suskind are characters with a lot of depth, and the mystery behind how much Hughes manipulated the situation is just fascinating. Some of the side stories were a little contrived, but the bulk of the movie is only enhanced by the fact that this really happened.


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