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Lasse Hallström
Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Julie Delpy, Eli Wallach, John Carter, Christopher Evan Welch
Writing Credits:
William Wheeler, Clifford Irving (book)

Based on the true story. Would we lie to you?

Golden Globe winner Richard Gere leads a stellar cast in The Hoax, the thrilling and unbelievably true story of the man who almost pulled off the biggest literary con of the 20th century. When the charismatic Clifford Irving (Gere) convinces a major publishing house that Howard Hughes, the bigger-than-life billionaire recluse, has asked Irving to pen his authorized autobiography, Irving must concoct an elaborate scheme to prove his fake manuscript is real. Inspired by Irving's tell-all book "The Hoax", and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat), this tensely comedic story of deception, international intrigue, powerful corporate empires and beautiful women is a wild rid down the slippery slope of a lie run amuck.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$1.229 million on 1069 screens.
Domestic Gross
$7.156 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 10/16/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Lasse Hallstrom and Writer William Wheeler
• Audio Commentary with Producers Leslie Holleran and Joshua D. Maurer
• “Stranger Than Fiction” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended Scene
• “Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Hoax (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 10, 2007)

When it came to the enigmatic Howard Hughes, it seems that we find more falsified stories about him than real tales. Melvin Dummar claimed to pick up Hughes in the desert and become part of his will. This story may actually be truthful, but plenty of doubts exist.

For a genuinely fake claim about Hughes, we go to 2007’s The Hoax. Based on factual events from the early Seventies, we meet author Clifford Irving (Richard Gere). He can’t sell his books so he becomes desperate for an idea to keep afloat financially.

So what does he do? He lies and claims that he got the gig to ghostwrite the autobiography of Howard Hughes. He gets his pal Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) involved as well, and the two of them attempt to create the fake memoirs. The film follows their adventures along with the inevitable complications.

The Hoax explodes out of the gate on the strength of its premise. This really does become “truth is stranger than fiction” territory, as the reality of what Irving attempted is just darned nutty. It’s hard enough to pull off fake biographies of obscure figures, but to try to write an “autobiography” of one of the world’s most famous men? That’s just totally bonkers, and Hoax conveys the insanity of the concept.

This means the best parts of the film come when we follow Cliff and Dick on their wild ride. Viewers will almost certainly most heartily embrace those scenes, and I think the filmmakers felt the same way. They dig into the scam-related scenes with gusto and bring them off in a manner both exciting and funny. When the film concentrates on the fake-out, it soars.

But then it feels the need to occasionally delve into relationship issues, and the flick sinks. Okay, “sinks” is probably an overstatement, but I do think Hoax slows to a crawl whenever we get stuck with Cliff’s marital complications. I think the filmmakers feel the movie needs these scenes to seem more three-dimensional, but I could really live without them. They don’t add anything substantial to the characters, and they distract from the story’s good points. Even the filmmakers seem disinterested in them, as they exhibit much less gusto when they force the relationship material on us.

I certainly can’t quibble about the film’s cast, though. From top to bottom, you’ll find an absolutely excellent set of actors on display. Molina shines the brightest as Dick. He shows good chemistry with Gere and steals many a scene.

The Hoax sags a little too much at times to become a really fine film, but its positives still outweigh its negatives. With a great premise, many entertaining sequences, and an outstanding cast, it has enough to offer to merit a viewing.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Hoax appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a consistently good transfer, though not one that stood out as particularly strong.

Sharpness seemed fine for the most part. Wider shots displayed a bit of softness, but those concerns remained modest. Usually the movie came across as acceptably crisp and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, but I noticed mild edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I noticed a couple small specks but nothing more.

The film’s hues appeared fairly cool much of the time. The flick used a slightly golden tone for that period feel. Colors could be a little too bland at times, but they usually were adequately well developed. Blacks seemed acceptably dense, and shadows were clear. The image suited the flick but didn’t excel.

One wouldn’t expect a slam-bang soundtrack from a quiet effort like The Hoax, and the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio won’t surprise anyone. The mix displayed a heavy orientation toward the front channels. Music showed decent stereo imaging, and effects created a fair sense of ambience. The surrounds added light reinforcement of those elements but didn’t do anything very substantial for the most part.

Audio quality seemed fine. Dialogue appeared natural and warm, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects usually played a modest role, but they remained distinct and accurate and lacked distortion. Music stayed in the same stark vein as the other elements, and the score seemed clear and bright, with acceptable range and fidelity. The audio of The Hoax appeared appropriately spare.

In terms of extras, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Lasse Hallstrom and writer William Wheeler. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. We learn how the two men came onto the project, research and period elements, thoughts about Clifford Irving, the facts of “the hoax” and its adaptation for the movie, cast and performances, editing and cut scenes, and a few production tidbits.

Much of the commentary examines the facts and the fiction of The Hoax, and that’s a good thing. When we learn about the reality behind the film and liberties taken, the piece becomes quite interesting. When Hallstrom and Wheeler chat about other subjects, though, matters seem less compelling. They still throw out some decent info, but I can’t claim the commentary compels. Overall, this is a fair to good examination of the film.

For the second commentary, we hear from producers Leslie Holleran and Joshua D. Maurer. Both sit together for their own running, screen-specific piece. In terms of content, the producers touch on the same kinds of issues heard in the first track. However, this doesn’t make the two terribly redundant. They provide their own take on issues and give us a lot of new information.

Actually, despite some repeated notes, I initially liked the producers’ commentary better than the first one. However, it starts to peter out after half an hour or so. Dead air becomes more common, as does general praise. There’s still enough good material to make this track interesting, but it doesn’t quite excel.

Next comes a “making of” featurette called Stranger Than Fiction. The nine-minute and four-second piece provides comments from Hallstrom, Maurer, Wheeler, reporter Mike Wallace, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton and actors Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and Richard Gere. “Fiction” looks at the movie’s background and premise, cast and crew, acting on the set, and thoughts about the scam and Clifford Irving. This is your basic promotional featurette, so don’t expect much from it. Other than two all-too-brief 60 Minutes clips with Irving, there’s nothing compelling here.

Six Deleted Scenes last a total of 13 minutes, 16 seconds. These include “Dick Is Indecisive” (1:58), “Plotting the Story” (2:05), “Nina in the Park” (2:31), “Friendship Is Complicated” (3:23), “Just a Typist” (1:32) and “The Phone Call” (1:48). The first two are good since they concentrate on the Cliff/Dick relationship; I especially like Dick’s waffling in “Indecisive”. “Park” seems less interesting, but that goes for all the Nina scenes; none of those ever becomes too compelling.

Even though it features more Cliff and Dick, “Complicated” doesn’t do much for me; it spells out some unnecessary points. “Typist” is a little better, as it accentuates Cliff’s deception of his friend, while “Call” shows Cliff’s escalating paranoia. I don’t if any of these should’ve made the final cut – maybe “Indecisive” – but they’re good to see.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Hallstrom and Wheeler. They give us notes about the scenes and tell us why they cut the sequences. Their comments prove useful.

An extended scene entitled “Business As Pleasure” runs six minutes, 27 seconds. This shows Cliff, Dick and the suits from McGraw-Hill at a business dinner. It’s always good to see more of Cliff and Dick as they bluster about Hughes, but there’s not much to make this a terribly memorable extension, even if it is fun.

Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con goes for four minutes, 33 seconds. Here the 60 Minutes newsman discusses Irving and his impressions of the scam. “Con” proves moderately interesting, though I’d like to see more of the archival interviews.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for National Treasure: Book of Secrets, No Country for Old Men, and Becoming Jane. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for The Invisible, Eagle Vs. Shark and The Golden Door. No trailer for Hoax appears here.

The Hoax takes on a fascinating subject and creates an intermittently involving film. Parts work really well, while other segments drone and meander. The DVD provides acceptable picture and audio with a fairly good set of extras. Regard this one as rental territory.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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