In the early '70s, writer Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) sells a totally bogus biography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes to a major book publisher. The film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("Casanova," "The Cider House Rules") and co-stars Alfred Molina as Irving's research partner and Marcia Gay Harden as Irving's wife.
Big question: Can "The Hoax" tell the truth about the real-life tale?
Catch it: "The Hoax" accomplishes what films like "Shattered Glass" haven't. It explores the irresistible thrill that liars enjoy when they adjust reality to their liking--the truth is a puppet, and they hold the strings. The film is a fascinating cat-and-mouse game between facts and lies that reveals the way that a little fish can swim into a big pond, with only its quick tongue keeping it afloat.
Skip it: If you already know the meaning of the expression, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Irving clearly doesn't, as he buys a car with money from an oral agreement.
Bottom line: Like many based-on-a-true-story flicks, "The Hoax" unnecessarily tinkers with things (a closing moment is ridiculously cinematic), underwrites others (Harden's role, Irving's writing process) and downplays the principal moral dilemma. "The Hoax" could have been great, but it's still quite a good movie about the trust that's essential to all agreements--between an author and a publisher or a man and his wife.
Bonus: Great news for "A Million Little Pieces" scribe James Frey, who has a very liberal take on the term "memoir." After seeing "The Hoax," people will think Frey is practically this generation's Abe Lincoln.
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom; screenplay by William Wheeler, based on Clifford Irving's book "The Hoax"; photographed by Oliver Stapleton; edited by Andrew Monds hein; music by Carter Burwell; production design by Mark Ricker; produced by Mark Gordon, Leslie Holleran. A Miramax Films/Bob Yari Productions release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:56. MPAA rating: R (for language).
Clifford Irving - Richard Gere
Dick Suskind - Alfred Molina
Edith Irving - Marcia Gay Harden
Andrea Tate - Hope Davis
Nina Van Pallandt - Julie Delpy
Noah Dietrich - Eli Wallach
Shelton Fisher - Stanley TucciCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times