Thursday, February 14, 2008

Movie Review : the Hoax

Movie : The Hoax
Director : Lasse Hallström
Starring : Richard Gere, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina
Plot : In what would cause a fantastic media frenzy, Clifford Irving (Gere) sells his bogus biography of Howard Hughes to a premiere publishing house in the early 1970s.
My Rating : ★★

Now let me start out by saying I'm not a big fan of Richard Gere. I cant remember the last movie I liked with him in it, and the last one I can recall is The Jackal with Bruce Willis. And that movie sucked on too many levels to write about.

Based on a true story, Gere plays Clifford Irving, a washed up writer on his last legs who decides in a spur of the moment decision to con one of the largest publishing houses in America. He convinces them, with the help of some handwritten letters and his research assistant Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) that he is writing a biography of Howard Hughes. For those who don't know, Hughes was the multi-millionaire portrayed by Leonardo Di Caprio in Scorcese's flick The Aviator.

I was unsure what to make of The Hoax, as I didn't know much about it, but it was easy to watch, and if you could ignore Gere's hammy acting it wasn't a bad movie. I got a few laughs out of it, and you could say I didn't feel like I had irretrievably lost any of my life watching it. There are some good performances by Molina and Stanley Tucci, and the movie ambles along at a rather nice pace.

Once I had finished it, I was curious how accurate it was, and I checked out the central character Clifford Irving on Wikipedia. Its interesting to see how far it deviates from real life - here's a quote from Irving about the movie :

I was hired by the producers as technical adviser to the movie, but after reading the final script I asked that my name be removed from the movie credits. I didn't want anyone to believe that I had contributed to such a historically cock-eyed story where the main character, almost by coincidence, happens to bear my name. It's hard to believe that sophisticated Manhattan publishers would fall for the nonsense this guy spouts in order to convince them that the moon is made of Stilton cheese. As played by Richard Gere – an actor I admire – Movie Clifford is desperate and humourless, a washed-up hack writer who lives in a conservative New York suburb. In fact I had a multi-book contract with my publisher and enjoyed the good life on Ibiza, a sunny Mediterranean island where I owned a beautiful 15-room farmhouse. Movie Clifford has the energy of a not-too-bright psychopath. If I were that man, I'd shoot myself.

It does highlight a question that always poses itself whenever I see a movie that has "based on actual events" on the poster or plot outline. Its a lovely way of saying "we took something that happened and Hollywooded it, and now it bears virtually no resemblance to reality". It happens almost too much now that I take everything I see on the silver screen with a grain of salt.

Anyhow, I'm not sure how to recommend this movie - but I'd say if its on telly in a year or two, or on cable which you've already paid for, then give it a look.

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