The Hoax (2007), or Lies, Lies, Lies

8 07 2009

I lie. You lie. We all lie at some point in out lives. Sometimes it’s for the concern of someone’s feelings. Other times, it’s for the concern of your own benefit. Often times, we lie on small doses, as to make certain that the falsitude is not so large that it might be noticed. But how often have you conjured up a big lie? A lie so large that it begs to be noticed and revealed? Richard Gere tells the biggest lie of his life as biographer Clifford Irving in this tale of deceit today, called The Hoax. It’s one of the best Richard Gere films I’ve ever seen, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think his career was going down a path I couldn’t follow (i.e. Nights In Rodanthe).

It follows the harrowing saga of Clifford Irving, a man with a plan. His idea for literary fame is so grandiose and unfathomable, it has the possibility of success. After his first book fails, he decides that to have his name out there, he has to attach a big name to it. Not knowing any big names, he does the next best thing: he lies about knowing a big name. Namely Howard Hughes. He grabs the attention of a publisher with the idea of an autobiography that Howard Hughes wrote with his help. The sparks the interest of McGraw-Hill, who offers him $500,000 for the rights to publish this story. Irving, a man quick on his feet, goes to outrageous lengths to keep his lie covered, studying the man for days on end to lend authenticity to the book’s fictitious nature. But when Hughes and his aides begin hearing about this, he starts making announcements about the “autobiography’s” dubious origins. Can Irving think quickly enough to get out of this, or is his number soon coming up?

What an impressive work, and what a bold-faced lie. Irving really had some balls to create such an elaborate fabrication, and it really shows in Gere’s portrayal. This is a movie about duplicity, and the things we do to keep from feeling the implications of such duplicity. Irving is a man living a double life in almost ever sense of the word. On the surface, he is a recovering alcoholic who is dealing well with his wife over the ramifications of an affair he had, he’s working on a book with Howard Hughes, and he’s being offered $500,000 from a publisher to sell this story. Underneath that, he is a LAPSED alcoholic who is having ANOTHER affair, and whose outrageous lie about Hughes, a man he has never met, is beginning to consume him.

Gere should have received more acclaim for his performance here. I give credit where credit is due, and Gere is on fire in this role. Irving is a complex man, but he really lands it. He feels very genuine, not some Hollywood slickster ready to get paid. What really sells it for me are the scenes where he comes face to face with the lie that is his life. He can’t cope with himself, and attempts to drown in booze. It’s a tough thing to watch, even knowing that he did it to himself. He doesn’t seem like a bad man, although neither do many liars. It’s just the harshness of his fall, with special care paid by Gere to the minutia, that brings this one to a crescendo.

The interesting thing about The Hoax is how little I cared about its enigmatic impetus, Howard Hughes. He is an interesting man, and I would love to read his REAL biography sometime, but Clifford Irving really steals the show, and by that I don’t mean that he literally stole the show. The story is intriguing and, like its main character, beguiling. There is enough intrigue to keep you interested, enough political conjecture to keep you talking, and enough Richard Gere to keep you consistently impressed. I’m not lying (!) when I say that this is a pretty great film, so check it out. I give The Hoax 8 1/2 phoney-baloney biographies out of 10. I promise…

Come back tomorrow when we get TOTALLY 80s with The Last Starfighter!

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