Original Review Date: 6/2/2007
The Hoax is a film about the legendary Howard Hughes in the 1970’s and a writer’s desperate attempt at fame and fortune through deception and lies. That ambitious writer is Clifford Irving (Richard Gere’s character), whose latest book gets demolished by critics before its published, causing his publishers to pull the book before it is every released. In a fit of desperation, Irving bursts into his publishers’ office during a meeting and says his upcoming book is the most important book of the twentieth century. The book in question is an autobiography of the reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes. The offices of McGraw-Hill, Irving’s publishers, are instantly electrified by the news. Irving proves he is a far better writer and creative mind than anyone imagines as he begins manufacturing correspondents from Hughes that are actually forged so well they are authenticated by handwriting experts.
Irving soon enlists his best friend and background/detail man Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) to help him write and gather information for the autobiography. It is Suskind’s character that provides the most comic relief in the film, showing how versatile an actor Molina really is. The information gathering sequences are where the most tension and the most humor is found in The Hoax but it is in the writing of the autobiography’s pages that Gere flexes his acting muscles. In order to write about him, Irving and Suskind investigate Hughes to the point where Gere can virtually channel him in the recording/writing sessions for the autobiography.
As the film progresses and the book nears completion, the legal consequences of what Irving and Suskind are doing begins to mount. They are not simply pulling the wool over McGraw-Hill’s eyes; they are risking jail time, their careers and most important in the literary world, their reputations. Even with threats looming over their heads, they push forward with the autobiography as anxiety rises and their personal lives begin falling apart, causing them to drink and doing things they wouldn’t normally do. Irving and Suskind are also forced to get more inventive with their fallacious book and their conspiracy. This is the section of the film that truly shows how deep their imaginations are but also their growing desperation to keep their payday, a one million dollar check written out to Howard Hughes by McGraw-Hill. This desperation leads them to conduct a brilliant and successful operation involving the roof top of the McGraw-Hill building and a helicopter.
In The Hoax’s third act, what Irving had counted on never happening in his wildest dreams happens: Howard Hughes voluntarily comes forward after ten years of seclusion and publicly denounces Irving and his book on live television. The interview is over the phone but thanks to Irving and Suskind listening to recordings of Hughes during the autobiography’s creation you know it’s him. At this point, the house cards comes crashing down and everyone starts running for cover.
The Hoax is a film that houses Richard Gere’s best performance in years. He reminds you why he is part of Hollywood’s top tier of actors. Gere doesn’t just act cool and replicate himself in his character as in some of his other films or like William Shatner’s Denny Crane on television’s Boston Legal. He acts, much like Stallone acts in Rocky Balboa, though Balboa is a great film while The Hoax is simply an entertaining one.