THE HOAX

REVIEW BY DAVE SMITH

 

This may be Richard Gere's best film. He was good in Chicago but I kept wishing they had cast someone who could dance. He would not do well on "Dancing with the Stars." However in this film he gives a wonderful performance as one of the greatest con men ever. Clifford Irving had the audacity to claim he was chosen by Howard Hughes to write his autobiography. As far out as this may seem, he was able to convince one of this country's biggest publishers, McGraw-Hill, that the whole thing was legit.

Like a lot of big businesses, McGraw-Hill was too preoccupied with the smell of money to really challenge his project. Gere is helped considerably by the multi-talented Alfred Molina along with the equally multi-talented Stanley Tucci and strong performances by Marcia Gay Harden (who may be slightly overboard with her German accent) and Hope Davis. Molina plays Gere's long-time assistant who is somewhat reluctant to go along with Irving's scheme but nervously and sweatingly does so anyway. Tucci is the CEO of McGraw-Hill who has his doubts about Irving but puts them aside after making a few feeble attempts to confirm the veracity of the book.

Howard Hughes continues to be a fascinating subject for movies. Jonathan Demme's Melvin and Howard was a gem of a movie with Jason Robards giving a great performance as Hughes. Martin Scorcese's The Aviator was a noble, if somewhat flawed attempt, at a biography of Hughes. Leonardo DeCaprio was sufficiently believable as the eccentric millionaire. But this movie is certainly as good, if not better, that those. Director Lasse Holstrom keeps us in continual suspense as the frenetic Irving manages to keep the hoax going each time it seems headed for disaster. Holstrom is one of our best directors, giving us such great films as What's Eating Gilbert Grape? The Cider House Rules, and Chocolat.

This film may not be an Oscar-winner, but it certainly qualifies as a very good, intelligently written, directed, and acted film. Not too many films can claim that.

 

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