View Full Version : The Hoax (spoiler, but so what?)

04-10-2007, 02:22 AM
In the early Seventies, I was vaguely aware of Clifford Irving and his comical effort to market his ‘unauthorized’ bio of Howard Hughes. At that time the billionaire was either holed up at the Desert Inn in Vegas or in his hotel in (I think) Nicaragua or was in Honduras? Anyway, from afar, he appeared to be your basic uninteresting grifter.

The movie (apparently based on Irving’s own memoir) is quite a different matter. First, Irving is played by Richard Gere and presents as an endearing, almost accidental, con man. And Albert Molina as his sidekick, Dick Susskind, is wonderful as a modern Sancho Panza to Gere’s manic Quixote. Gere is swashbuckling in a Steve Martin kind of way. Molina seems to have a conscience, but is invariably seduced by Gere’s outrageousness. As the tag line says, ‘The more outrageous I sound, the more convincing I am.’ This film takes the concept of The Big Lie into an area it hasn’t been before, with the possible exception of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ where Martin and Caine seek to fleece wealthy women. Unlike that fiction, where pratfalls and sight gags added to the delight, Gere simply becomes more imaginative and daring. His takeover of the top floors of the McGraw-Hill building in preparation for Howard Hughes’s helicopter is a marvel of wonderful deceit.

I found it to be well worth my time and I enjoyed it much more than the real thing. BTW, Susskind and Van Pallandt were reasonably good talents in their own right and Molina and Julie Delpy in those roles were very good. Best supporting actress, however, was Marcia Gay Harden as Edith, Clifford’s wife. The range of her emotion and involvement is truly amazing. She goes from doubter to participant, to wronged wife (as Irving reverts to dallying with Van Pallandt), to willing believer in Irving’s cover-up lie, to wounded victim of Irving’s conspiracy. The range she must show here is simply amazing, but so understated as to be absolutely believable.

Highly recommended as entertainment.