Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Not So Good: The Hoax

The Hoax (Advance Screening)
Directed by Lasse Hallström
To be released April 6, 2007

Richard Gere is Clifford Irving, a journalist on the verge of a career-making book, only to find that his ideas are briefly approved before being ultimately rejected. His brilliant idea for the most stunning non-fiction book “of the century,” as he says, is a completely fabricated, exclusive autobiography of reclusive multi-billionaire Howard Hughes. The real-life Irving wrote a memoir of his great hoax, which serves as the basis for this film.

The concept is fascinating; unfortunately, the payoff is disappointing. From the film’s opening moments, aided by Carter Burwell’s underused, bouncy score, it seems like a comedy, rather than what it should be, an intriguing and compelling drama. Everyone seems too fall far too easily for Irving’s great lie, especially since Irving in the film does minimal research before concocting his grand scheme. Perhaps this is how it really was (I am not familiar with the history), yet it comes off as generic storytelling without appropriate background support.

Gere is more than mildly obnoxious as Irving, a more toned-down and less skilled version of his great Billy Flynn in Chicago. He is not much different from many of the characters Gere portrays, and as such Gere brings nothing new to the table. Marcia Gay Harden is dreadful as Irving’s estranged wife, and the rest of the cast has no memorable part, with one exception. Alfred Molina is the film’s one saving grace, as Irving’s partner-in-crime Dick Susskind, who is used and manipulated by Irving throughout the film. Molina gives him a perpetual nervousness and keeps him serious enough to balance out his role as comic relief.

The film ironically enough takes a similar fall to that taken by Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator: when the protagonist starts to lose it, the film accordingly loses its coherence. I would expect more from Hallström, an Oscar-nominee for directing 1999’s The Cider House Rules. The boom mike bobs down into the top of the frame no less than seven times, and the rest of the film is relatively sloppy and poorly constructed.


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