The Hoax

MoviesEntertainmentHoward HughesSpider-Man (fictional character)Film FestivalsMcGraw-Hill IncorporatedMarcia Gay Harden

Clifford Irving notoriously tricked all of America into believing that he had secured the rights to reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes' memoirs back in 1971, making him the kind of colorful real-life character who is perfectly suited for the movies. Unfortunately, "The Hoax," though full of humor, understated tension and lovably chintzy '70s décor, never gets underneath its enigmatic fibber's skin and brings his story to the screen unevenly.

Richard Gere ("Chicago"), with a prosthetic nose slightly altering his recognizable features, plays the writer-turned-con man, who convinces publishing firm McGraw-Hill that landed a series of interviews with Hughes that will lead to the definitive biography of the aviation guru.

Clifford seizes upon the publisher's promise of a hefty paycheck as a long-overdue chance at success, but the threat of his deception being discovered affects not only Clifford, but also his wife, Edith (Marcia Gay Harden, an Oscar winner for "Pollock"), and his researcher, Dick (Alfred Molina, "Spider-Man 2"), both of whom play pivotal roles in the charade.

The consistently underrated Gere plays Clifford with energy and playfulness that suggests the writer got a joyful charge out of pulling the wool over the country's eyes. Gere also has an amusing chemistry with Molina, and many of the film's best scenes revolve around the pair's friendly bantering.

But the film, entertaining and witty on the surface, frustratingly doesn't explore what made Clifford a pathological liar. William Wheeler's script not only denies Clifford a backstory, but more could have been made of how his dishonesty manifested itself in the affairs he carried on behind Edith's back.

By not analyzing Clifford's motivations, "The Hoax" settles for being hollow fun.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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MoviesEntertainmentHoward HughesSpider-Man (fictional character)Film FestivalsMcGraw-Hill IncorporatedMarcia Gay Harden