Director: Lasse Hallstrom
After twenty plus years of playing seductive leading men, it’s very hard to accept Richard Gere in any role other than the suave… well, Richard Gere, but just when you have him typecast, he goes and surprises us with an astute against-type portrayal in this true story of audacious, successful scheming writer Clifford Irving. Lasse Hallstrom’s Hoax, filmed in a sharp, muted style that feels right in synch with the 1971 setting, introduces us to author Irving who, after failing to secure publication for his fiction follow-up to his nonfiction work about an art forger, concocts a wild scheme to keep writing. Driven by desperation and delusions of grandeur, Irving fabricates letters from eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and sells McGraw-Hill and Life Magazine on the idea that he alone has been chosen to write the exclusive biography of the reclusive twentieth century pop culture icon. Advanced astronomical sums of money by publishers Hope Davis and Stanley Tucci (along with others), Irving enlists the help of his best friend Dick Suskind (played by the terrific Alfred Molina) and wife Edith (a nearly unrecognizable Marcia Gay Harden) in trying to infiltrate top secret documents, figure out a way to cash checks to Hughes, and finally uncover dirt that ultimately leads to the Watergate break-in while he builds lie upon lie until it all crashes down. Unbelievable, well-acted, crisply photographed and directed, and edited to a fast-paced perfection, we feel completely caught up into the overwhelming web of deception cast by the womanizing, undeniably brilliant but twisted mind of Irving, who, only in America, after serving a relatively short jail term, ended up writing his own account of his life as a Hughes poser, that ultimately led to the film. Hoax marks the best movie from Lasse Hallstrom in years, which is a wonderful step in the right direction for the director, who recently had seemed to have gotten trapped in European regal period dramas such as Casanova and Chocolat and therefore did well by moving away from the stereotypical whimsy of his other films into the concrete jungle, dazzling us (much in the same way as Gere) by his chameleon-like ability to adapt to any challenge.