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Hoax, The (AF)


Stars: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Julie Delpy, Hope Davis, Stanly Tucci, Eli Wallach, John Carter, Christopher Evan Welch, Zeljko Ivanek, Peter McRobbie, Stuart Margolin

Director: Lasse Halstrom

In movies, the legend “based on a true story” all too often translates as “only the facts have been changed to make a better narrative”.

Here, the basic plot is accurate enough - writer Clifford Irving and his researcher/friend Dick Suskind fake the ‘autobiography’ of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, sell the book for a fortune but are then exposed as conmen. However, screenwriter William Irving seems to have been more than a tad cavalier with mere facts to make a stronger dramatic narrative.

The approach pays off at the start as Irving – played by Gere with dyed, permed hair, patent delight in the role and sometimes grating chirpiness – sets his scam in motion. Considering the outcome is never in doubt, Hallstrom creates a surprising amount of suspense. Unfortunately, the film sadly runs out of dramatic steam before the end and fails to justify its 116 minutes running time in spite of attempts to give the story some political significance by involving Richard Nixon in the story: the strain of filling the time shows with an unwise segue into fantasy when, towards the end, Irving is shown being kidnapped and flung out of a high window to persuade him of the error of his ways.

Gere’s better than he’s been in a while (his Irving would be a shoo-in as a British political spin-doctor) but Molina’s Suskind is often out of his depth when called upon to act convincingly (and the shot of him in vest and shorts merits an ‘18’ certificate). Wallach steals the show with a splendidly cynical cameo as Hughes' long time associate Noah Dietrich, while Tucci’s wig surely qualifies as a hoax in its own right. Despite the patently high production values and hard work on both sides of the camera, The Hoax finally emerges as resembling a rather-better-than-average TV movie.

Alan Frank

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour.
116 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

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

Review date: 30 Jul 2007