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Hoax, The (DQ)


Stars: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Eli Wallach

Director: Lasse Hallstrom

This is a fascinating true story, though you get the impression that the makers were hard-pushed to make a two-hour feature from it. For a simple tale, too, it's relatively difficult to follow.

Penniless author Clifford Irving (Gere), in despair at getting a novel rejected after initial acceptance, hits on the idea of perpetrating the publishing hoax of the century: an 'autobiography' of reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes. As Hughes hasn't appeared in public in decades, and never speaks to anyone, Irving figures he might just get away with it.

Thanks to the silver tongues of Irving and his researcher (a lugubrious Molina), everyone, even those who have met Hughes, is taken in. Meticulous research, coupled with Irving's inspired imaginings and the purloining of the unpublished memoir of former Hughes associate Noah Dietrich (Wallach) produces a final manuscript described by the reputable McGraw-Hill company as a masterpiece.

But when Irving receives confidential documents concerning Hughes' dealings with those involved with Richard Nixon, the fates begin to close in, perhaps masterminded by Hughes himself.

The film, aided by reliable performances - with Harden outstanding as Irving's Swiss wife - does carry you along with it, although it's half an hour too long and, like Irving himself, finds it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction. The original manuscript, though, might be worth a read.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Momentum (Warner Classics). Colour by Du Art.
116 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Jul 2007