The Hoax (R)

Drama 115 April 13, 2007
By Ella Taylor
Lest we imagine that the publishing industry went to hell only after James Frey and J.T. LeRoy clambered on board, here comes Lasse Hallström to remind us of a literary dustup emblematic of a much earlier nadir for American mendacity. The Hoax parses the rise and fall of faker Clifford Irving (a stalled minor writer who shot to fame when he claimed to have been approached by the notoriously reclusive aviation billionaire Howard Hughes to write his memoirs) as a symptom of that other lying decade, the 1970s. Fair enough, but it seems a bit much to hang this entire paranoid age -- Vietnam, Watergate, corporate greed, celebrity mania, pointy collars, you name it -- on one slack nebbish (however shiftily played by Richard Gere). To its credit, The Hoax isn't glib -- it doesn't chalk up Irving's moral vacuum to anything a bad mommy or daddy did. But there's no other point of view either; the film suffers a fatal equivocation over whether to frame him as a caper or an American tragedy. I kept hankering for the antic joie de vivre of Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can, which gave itself wholly over to what we love about con movies: They have style to burn, and they don't give a damn.
Lasse Hallström Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Julie Delpy, David Aaron Baker, Michael J Burg, Antonie Knoppers, Eli Wallach, John Carter William Wheeler, Clifford Irving Joshua Maurer, Mark R. Gordon, Betsy Beers, Leslie Holleran, Bob Yari Miramax Films

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