THE HOAX

 

Review by Gary Murray

 

    Richard Gere has been a movie star for decades but never been a movie actor.  He has used his good looks and devil may care smile to become one of the more recognized faces in the movies.  The list of his films include American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Pretty Woman.  All were good parts with revered moments, but none were Oscar winning roles for Mr. Gere.  Now in the last few years, with his looks fading, Richard Gere has been taking on more character parts than starring roles.  His latest is The Hoax, the story of Clifford Irving.

    It is NYC in the 1970's and Gere plays Irving, a struggling writer who has had his latest book rejected by McGraw Hill.  In trying to save his advance and his career, he tells his editors that he has the biggest scoop in the history of publishing.  He says that he has been contacted by Howard Hughes to write his autobiography.  The problem is that the entire enterprise is a lie.  Irving gets fellow writer Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) to assist him in the research on Hughes.  It almost becomes a tale of espionage as these two go on research journeys, stealing files from the Library of Congress.  As they build facts on Hughes, the go more and more down the rabbit hole.  At one point, Irving listens to Howard's testimony before Congress, and then he takes on the accent.  This leads the two to start making research reel-to-reels as to bolster their fictitious autobiography.  The more Irving and Suskind tap dance around the editors of McGraw Hill, the more the deception tries to unravel.  Each instance that should break the pack of lies, the more it is rescued by Irving.  The entire enterprise is a house of cards build around the idea the Howard Hughes would never leave his Las Vegas apartments to challenge Irving.  But the people who work for Howard seem to keep the recluse in the loop of what is going on.  Irving becomes a pawn in a major game being played on a different level than even Clifford Irving can imagine.  Irving's final realization is that Hughes is everywhere.

    The best part of Gere's playing of Irving is the downward spiral of the character.  Irving goes from researching the recluse to mimicking his voice to dressing up like the business icon.  Gere doesn't play Richard Gere as Clifford Irving but actually builds a believable character.  This is a strong early contender for Oscar 2007.  Even the smaller parts such as Marcia Gay Harden as Irving's wife Edith are plum.  She affects an accent that works while making the most of an almost nothing role.  Stanley Tucci as Shelton Fisher is yet another small role that is building a grand career for the character actor.  But some of the biggest praises have to go to Alfred Molina.  He truly is the lost soul, the one man out.  Never realizing the total consequences of his actions, he is in too deep even as his ankles are wet in the stream.  It isn't a slow burn of his character but a panic ridden explosion.

    Lasse Hallstrom who gave us the major independent hit What's eating Gilbert Grape? again shows that he knows his way around a quirky screenplay.  By keeping a balance between Irving and Suskind as a balance between extreme characters, there is an even keel to the proceedings.  Never letting his camera overpower his performers, he mostly lets his actors find their rhythms on the screen.  The Hoax is a fascinating story of desire over honor and the downfall of want.  It is also a story of forces beyond ones control.


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