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The Hoax is the return to form of one of cinemas most appealing icons, Richard Gere, especially to the ladies out there. The last film I enjoyed of his was the rather tongue-in-cheek Mothman Prophecies. Pretty Woman (1990) was his last real hit with the public. It's circa 1971 and published writer Clifford Irving (Richard Gere)is upbeat. After his first book ?Fake' sold badly he believes ?Rudnick's Problem' is his breakthrough novel. But his publishers are not so sure and not prepared to print and walk away. Deflated he vacations with friend Richard Suskind (Alfred Molina) to seek inspiration for his next project. That spark of an idea comes quickly when none other than eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes books into the hotel, his people buying up the whole floor and all the tourists cleared out. Irving storms into the Manhattan publisher's office proclaiming he has the ?Book of the Century?, claiming Howard Hughes has approached him to help with his autobiography, Irving providing handwritten letters from Hughes as proof. When calligraphy experts declare the handwriting to be of Hughes hand, Irving demands an advance of $500,000 dollars or he will go elsewhere. The idea was so implausible it had to be the truth, right? The letters are faked, of course, and Irving and Suskind set about creating a book through simple research and detective work, stealthy copying confidential papers from a man called Noah Dietrich (Eli Wallach) who has an early draft of a previous forgotten scrubbed Hughes biography, giving them inside information on Hughes that seems to authenticate their book research to the publishers. In those papers from Dietrich's mansion there are explosive allegations about Hughes and Richard Nixon that Irving intends to use as collateral if they get found out.As word gets out of the books existence, Irving and Suskind believe Hughes won't stop them as he rarely talks to the outside world now. Any denial from Hughes in his current reclusive state would simply be another rant from a depressed pill popper. But to run the final print the publishing house has to authenticate everything in it by asking Hughes representatives about it to avoid huge legal action from the Hughes Estate.At times the film becomes more about Gere and his attempted Oscar grab than about the actual true story that's worth digging deeper into. The script is simply not intelligent enough for what is an intriguing story. If you don't know the story you stick with it but it just doesn't go that step up the critics suggest with their positive ratings. But when film doesn't make money after good critic reviews than the public were right, end of, director Lasse Halstrom turning a $25 million budget into the $11 million box-office flop. Halstrom had a golden few years back in the day with acclaimed films like Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat and The Shipping News but has done noting of note for twenty years.Gere is fine in the lead and clearly over estimated the potential for awards here when giving his all. He is no longer the smoldering sex bomb he was in Breathless and the American Gigolo and so has to deploy his more mature acting chops to keep working at the top, his beautiful face now wrinkled and gray. Everyone else does their best around him as the intrigue of Irving's deception is left to do the rest. The real Irving said he was less than impressed with the film as he was painted as a scheming selfish psychopath and his friends as likewise when in reality they were a bunch of Bohemians and intended to present the finished book to Hughes for him to sign off on.Clearly the interesting film here would have been the exploration of Irving's troubled and egotistical persona than the linear film on the true story we get. I would have liked to have known more about Hughes and the accusations against him than the preening author at times. It's an interesting true story to be told but it wasn't told here.
- Story -
Clifford Irving is annoyed to discover that his plans to release a book aren't going to work out and so he storms into a publishers meeting declaring that he'll have the book of the century to sell to them the following day - he then has to decide what this book will be and when he stumbles across a feature in a magazine about the infamous eccentric recluse billionaire Howard Hughes which features an example of a hand written note, he decides to learn to forge his handwriting and sets out to claim to write his autobiography, along with his friend Albert. Can he really fool the publishers? this is a movie based on real events.
- Thoughts & Opinions -
This movie I felt was a bit too slow and winding mid-way through, you forget that the events portrayed only took place over a shortish amount of time. I was a bit put off by the fact that to be honest, I struggled to think why I wouldn't want Cliffords deceit to be discovered, although it was somewhat amusing to see the business heads sweat a bit as they question his legitimacy for different reasons at different times in the movie - its interesting to see the extent to which they buy into Clifford and what he offers them but Clifford himself as a character I found not so likable, infact it was only really about three quarters of the way into the movie when things (plot wise) start to really speed up that I found his character more interesting as he seems to suffer some delusions and you question where the line is between reality and fabrication - this is certainly what interested me the most as it really comes to a head with Clifford seemingly believing things that may be entirely in his own mind, making you question his sanity.The question is, is he a genius, I suppose in a sense as Hughes was, that offered something that was, it seems, so close to the presumed truth that those close to him rubber stamped its authenticity?, or is he nothing but a money grabbing deluded greedy guts? thats the main question asked by the movie and I think if you watch it in full, you may question things - I was certainly impressed by some of the means that those involved in writing 'project Octavia' (the name given to this top secret book deal) had to go to, to prolong the charade. There's one scene where the building the publishers is based in, has to rip out their carpets on the supposed request of Howard Hughes and they pain a helipad on the roof of their building, according to his specific request - some staff are stood on the roof with baited breath as a helicopter appears in the distance - you'll have to watch the movie to see what happens from that point on though - whether Clifford can explain it away if the helicopter doesn't land or how they deal with who they see if it does.
Back to the characters and I felt that one of the other main characters apart from Clifford, that being Albert who's the other key person that helps Clifford in creating the manuscript, he's the character that questions things a bit more and that has more of a moral basis, although when things look good for them in terms of them getting the money and getting away with their plan, he doesn't have too many issues but receiving certain information about who could be hurt by the details that come out about Mr. Hughes life, his conscience does come into play and its perhaps interesting to see how the two characters interact - Albert being quite a jittery person who doesn't deal so well under pressure but Clifford is more calm and collected and able to explain away that which is necessary. The key issue of deceiving others isn't just reflected in the attempt to flog a fake autobiography manuscript but also the personal issue of Cliffords faithfulness as his wife has concerns with him and Albert being away from home for a while working on 'project Octavia', having worked on his relationship after issues in the past - there is the inevitable scene where his wife confronts him, though that also adds, in a way, to the dislike of his character.
The movie is based on real events, which makes it a more interesting story, or a story about a story I guess you could say, so yeah how accurate the story is about the people trying to sell a fake story - yup that makes my head hurt lol. I did think that Richard Gere was a good choice to portray Clifford as he has that cool and collected look about him and watching the scenes where he got into character to record his fake supposed interviews/recordings with Howard Hughes, I thought he took on Mr Hughes' character in both somewhat looking the part and also talking the part - also the movie features some recordings and TV footage of Mr. Hughes (yes somehow I feel I should refer to him as Mr. Hughes), which may be of interest to those with a fascination of him. I suppose in some ways, he's the American version of Lord Lucan, who has supposedly been in hiding or otherwise disappeared many years ago - people who have a great wealth and/or a particularly interesting background and who seem to vanish off the map definitely interest the public, hence why such an autobiography would be such a 'hot item' in the publishing world.
All in all, I didn't think a great deal of the movie at first but by the end of it, I changed my mind and thought it was quite good. Unless this is a subject that particularly interests you, this might not be specifically worth seeking out but I thought it was intriguing, knowing its based on real events and with some decent performances. Its not exactly an action packed movie but Gere's performance pulls it off and seeing what happened as the story picked up pace, made it a pretty decent watch at the end of the day.
- Would I Reccomend It? -
Yes, I think so, just...thats because the story it portrays seems a pretty good depiction - ignoring the whole matter of how truthful it is because that hurts my head lol. Gere gives a good performance and I found it interesting to see how the publishing 'big wigs' challenged Clifford and otherwise where the story went, although I felt that perhaps Cliffords character was a bit too off putting at times if you questioned whats behind his motive but the fact that its based on real events certainly made it more interesting.
I hope this review was useful to you, thanks for reading it and thanks for all rates and comments - this review was originally posted at Ciao UK.