Sun 8 Apr 2007
Gere wouldn’t be smiling if he read this review.
For those of you not old enough to remember, there once was an enigmatic billionaire known as Howard Hughes. He owned TWA, dated movie stars and eventually Leonardo DiCraprio played him in a movie.
I’m not old enough either but I’ve been inside the Spruce Goose which is currently situated in Long Beach, CA and the idea that a plane that big even lifted off the ground for a mere matter of seconds baffles me.
Anywho, also unbeknownst to me, there was an author (Clifford Irving) in 1971 who managed to fool a publishing company and Life Magazine into thinking Howard Hughes was using him to help write an autobiography.
As fate would have it, now it would be Irving’s turn to see his life plastered on the big screen – only instead of Titanic Jack, he got an American Gigolo – Richard Gere.
I’ve been less than impressed with Gere and that’s probably because of two things; I’m a heterosexual male (no jokes, please) and I’m not old enough to have enjoyed the prime of his work.
Sure, I saw “Pretty Woman” but I paid a lot more attention to the woman than the businessman who falls in love with the escort he hires. I could go on a rant here about how sad it must be that the only woman he finds was a prostitute and how does that make it a romantic movie but I’ll let it go for now.
Back to his depiction of Irving, that project was titled “The Hoax” and put in the care of director Lasse Hallström.
I am a fan of Hallström’s, most notably in “The Cider House Rules” and decided that his reputation trumped Gere’s enough for me to sit down and check out the film.
After seeing “The Hoax”, I now know their effects cancel one another out.
The film is a predictable journey of a man who is so desperate for success and fame that he will invent anything to get it.
The supporting cast is done very well, most notably Gere’s co-star Alfred Molina, who plays his researcher.
The two of them dig up as much dirt on Hughes as they can to craft an ‘autobiography’ believable enough to fool just about everyone but Howard Hughes.
Along the way, we are “treated” to Irving’s indiscretions with Julie Delpy, while his wife (the brilliant Marcia Gay Harden) attempts to hold their marriage together and even gets in on their scheme to defraud the publishing company.
Almost everything in the film that was about Irving personally I found cliché and underwhelming. You get that kind of dime store psychology in a TV movie of the week.
The interesting aspect of the film is what Irving’s actions created in a sort of karmic snowball effect.
Since no one reading this should watch the film anyway, I’ll just spill the beans. If you are going to see the film, then stop reading, watch the film, and come back.
Okay, everyone ready?
Essentially, Irving stumbles upon a connection between Richard Nixon and Howard Hughes. Nixon becomes paranoid and sends some people to listen in to meetings at a certain Washington D.C. hotel.
Yup, it’s because of a lying author that the Watergate scandal happened.
While I found the film less than exciting, I was intrigued by that connection in terms of historical relevance.
Now, Nixon and Hughes are dead, leaving it difficult for them to dispute any of this.
However, Irving is alive and well and even is credited as a technical consultant on the film.
That doesn’t stop him, however from deciding that the final cut of the film is less than accurate.
The New York Daily News interviewed him shortly before the film’s release and he said, “They (the filmmakers) asked me a great many questions. I replied in depth. They ignored most of what I said. ”
In addition, he said that Gere “portrays me as a scumbag. If I were that man, I’d shoot myself. ”
Can anyone else say, “Oops”?
Well, I’ve gone on long enough with this film. “The Hoax” gets a 3 out of 5. It has some interesting historical references and most of the acting is done well. However, I thought Gere’s performance was less than inspired and another rewrite might have been in order to focus the film on some of the more interesting aspects of the story.