Leave it to accomplished director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat, Casanova, My Life as a Dog) to accomplish the unexpected not once but twice in his latest film. First he manages to take a very serious real-life crime and turn it into a buoyant and lighthearted comedy, and second of all he made me enjoy watching Richard Gere. Because it is, quite frankly, genius casting; only someone with the abundance of smarmy charm that Gere exudes onscreen could convincingly portray a man who used every charming bone in his body to pull off such an amazing stunt.
In the early 1970s, Clifford Irving was just another struggling writer. His one published book never sold very well, and his latest manuscript was soundly rejected. Eager for a chance to become famous, Irving decides to pen what he has dubbed (before even having any sort of idea in mind) “the most important book of the 20th century.” After blurting out said phrase to his contacts at McGraw-Hill, he turns to his friend, fellow author and crack researcher Richard Suskind (Alfred Molina) for help in figuring out just what would be this most important something to write about. Envious of the man’s obvious power, he settles upon Howard Hughes, but decides to go the extra faux mile by making his sham manuscript an autobiography. And thus begins an escalating series of illegalities that take our hero and his sidekick down a slippery slope into the land of felonious fraud.
Irving was clever enough to realize early on that–especially in the case of lying about your nonexistent dealings with a reclusive and probably insane billionaire–the more implausible the story, the more likely people are to believe it. Most of the fun comes from seeing the amazingly tall tales that Irving conjures up at the drop of a hat to keep his deception rolling along. Hallström and screenwriter William Wheeler also add a smartly placed layer to the story by focusing a sub-plot on Irving’s infidelities. Not only does this add to our understanding of the character as a habitual liar, but it also gives audiences some food for thought about how many of us, too, get through our lives via a series of little white lies.
The Hoax opens at select North Bay theaters on Friday, April 6.
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