The Hoax (2006)

DVD Cover (Miramax)
Lasse Hallström Lasse Hallström
David Aaron Baker David Aaron Baker
John Carter John Carter
Judi Barton Judi Barton
Raul S. Julia Raul S. Julia
James Biberi James Biberi

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Docudrama, Drama
In what would cause a fantastic media frenzy, Clifford Irving sells his bogus biography of Howard Hughes to a premiere publishing house in the early 1970s. --TMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: April 17, 2007
There are some directors who command my attention. Whenever Steven Spielberg releases a film, I don't care what the subject matter is - I am going to be seeing it opening weekend. Whenever Wes Anderson releases a picture, I am first in line for my ticket. Another director to whom I always show allegiance is Lasse Hallström. At first, his name might not ring a bell, especially to the average American movie-goer. He burst onto the scene in 1985 with "My Life As A Dog", which was soon nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Director. In 1993, he released "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" to immense critical and commercial acclaim. With his adaptation of John Irving's "The Cider House Rules" in 1999, nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Hallström finally cemented himself into the land of the Hollywood greats. "Chocolat" in 2000, nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, was the cherry on the sundae. Since then, however, Hallström has been on a bit of a slump. "The Shipping News" was a well-intended, but cloudy drama; "An Unfinished Life" was a long-delayed and quickly dumped film that suffered from the Weinstein split from Miramax; and "Casanova" was a light-hearted and somewhat successful romantic comedy that benefited from Heath Ledger's turn in "Brokeback Mountain". His latest film, "The Hoax", finds Hallström returning to his more independent roots, though this film is far from an indie flick. In addition, "The Hoax" is Hallström's second best film to date.

Based on extraordinary true events, "The Hoax" chronicles author Clifford Irving (Richard Gere), a struggling novelist, as he perpetrates one of the grandest and most unbelievable hoaxes in American history. Desperate for cash and low on ideas, Irving - with the assistance of his best friend Dick Susskind (Alfred Molina) and wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden) - tells his publishers at McGraw/Hill, including Hope Davis and Stanley Tucci, that he is working on the greatest book of the 20th century - the autobiography of Howard Hughes. Irving claims that Hughes sought him out, and through elaborate stories and concoctions, Irving convinces the publishers, Life magazine, and just about everyone else that his book is the real thing. All the while, however, we know that Irving has never even met Howard Hughes, nor spoken with the man. The film takes a comedic, and sometimes tragic, look at a man who will do anything for buzz - anything for celebrity. "The Hoax" is the story of a man who will do anything for money and sacrifice anything...or anyone...to get it. The trailers make the film look primarily like a comedy, but "The Hoax" has a lot more to it than that. "The Hoax" is a well-crafted and well-executed dramatic comedy, among other things.

There's just so much to like here. The screenplay, by William Wheeler, crackles with wit and heart and really shows just how easily these people were persuaded by a man who was really smarter than all of them. Lasse Hallström's direction is some of his very best, setting up the comedy and the drama in ways that really pay off for the audience. We become emotionally invested in all of these characters, even the sleazy ones. Hallström has this unique storytelling ability that is present in all of his films. "The Hoax" is his best film since "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" I also want to mention the cinematography by Oliver Stapleton, who has worked on just about every other Lasse Hallström picture. He really turns "The Hoax" into a gritty 1970's-era film, reminiscent of "All the President's Men" or "Network". The standout sequence, for me, comes when Gere's character is taken to a hotel room by associates of Howard Hughes'. I won't reveal anymore, but the set-up and the lighting and the cinematography - all combined make this one of the best film sequences I have seen in a very long time. The music by Carter Burwell is very retro and very fitting the mood and the tempo of this film, and the soundtrack is note-perfect throughout the entire picture.

In terms of performances, there are some real gems here. Richard Gere continually shows he is one of the most likable and charismatic actors working in Hollywood today, and "The Hoax" might very well be his best performance to date. He breathes life into Clifford Irving and makes him just as colorful as you would expect someone like that to have been. As his right hand man, Alfred Molina's performance has Oscar written all over it. Molina steals just about every scene he is in and he does it with the same comic timing and dramatic flair that we've always seen from him. He really fits this part well. As Irving's wife, Marcia Gay Harden takes the role, knocks it over the head and totally becomes it. Her accent, her mannerisms - everything - show, once again, why she is one of the greatest actresses working today, and consistently so. In smaller roles, Stanley Tucci and Hope Davis are equally effective as two ruthless publishers. I also want to point out Peter McRobbie as George Gordon Holmes, a barely seen character with some real impact.

All of that said, "The Hoax" is the best film of 2007. I hope it's being released so early in the year does not affect its performance come awards season. The Academy tends to show great consideration for Lasse Hallström's films, and this one should certainly be no exception. I had expected to be dazzled by this film, but never expected how thoroughly entertaining it would turn out to be. Suggestions to the Academy would be: Richard Gere for Best Actor, Alfred Molina for Best Supporting Actor, Marcia Gay Harden for Best Supporting Actress, William Wheeler for Best Adapted Screenplay, Carter Burwell for Best Original Score and Lasse Hallström for Best Director. Does that say enough about what I thought of the film? I thoroughly recommend "The Hoax" to all lovers of cinema and hope you will check it out sooner, rather than later.

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