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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Hoax

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Judy Thorburn

The Hoax

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"THE HOAX" INTRIGUING TRUE STORY IS ONE FOR THE BOOKS

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

“THE HOAX” – INTRIGUING TRUE STORY IS ONE FOR THE BOOKS

Clifford Irving must have forgotten that saying, “you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time” when he tried to pass off his self written fake autobiography about Howard Hughes as the real thing. He came thisclose to pulling off one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century. Irving truly believed that that the reclusive billionaire, who hadn’t made a public appearance in 15 years, was a lunatic hermit and would never come out of hiding to reveal the truth. Little did Irving know that once Hughes found out about the book, the billionaire would have his own agenda in the works.

In William Wheeler’s script, based on Clifford Irving’s revealing memoirs, Richard Gere gives the best, most complex performance of his career and shows a darker side as the writer who in 1971 was desperate for an idea that would make him rich and famous after his latest book was turned down by the publishers. It was during a vacation in the Bahamas that Irving was hit with a brainstorm when noticing that Howard Hughes’ name was mentioned everywhere he turned including the cover of Life magazine.

By initially forging Hughes’ handwriting, Irving was able to pass off a three page note as coming from Howard Hughes and convince agent Andrea Tate (Hope Davis in a black wig) and executives at McGraw Hill that he was chosen by Hughes to write his authorized autobiography, the “book of the century”, then adding that Hughes would only communicate with publishers via hand written memos.

With help of close confident, researcher/writer Richard Susskind (scene stealer Alfred Molina) Irving devised a series of schemes, lies, and machinations to uncover valuable information about Hughes’ life. First a visit to Hughes’ former right hand man Noah Dietrich (octogenarian, brittle looking, but still grand Eli Wallach) at his Las Vegas estate, under the guise of writing a book on aviation, allowed Irving to get hold of a manuscript, send Dietrich out to make copies and return the hundreds of pages Irving pretended to be reading while Dietrich was only a few yards away relaxing in his indoor pool. A trip to the Library of Congress gives the co-conspirators a chance to illegally photograph secret documents, and Irving even went so far as to visit the Department of Defense in which Susskind was able to pass through security with stolen papers under his pants’ leg. Supposedly they got away with all this without ever being caught.

It is amazing to see how Irving was able to come up with incredible stories filled with lies and deceptions without blinking an eye. Irving was so brilliantly maniacal that when questioned he was able to take actual events from his life, incorporate them into his lies, and have them believed. In creating bogus taped conversations with Hughes, Irving copied his vocal intonations and to complete the impersonation, slicked back his hair and penciled in a thin moustache so as to look like Hughes. Eventually, Irving became so caught up in his deceptions that he became delusional and suffered from paranoid hallucinations. At one point, he appears actually convinced that he is the “mouth and words of Howard Hughes”. Only Susskind, with his anxiety attacks and feelings of guilt acts as the moral conscience.

The literary world wasn’t Irving’s only victim when it came to betrayal and deception. In reconciliation with hippie artist wife, Edith (Marcia Gay Harden, in an awful long blonde wig) after an affair with European socialite and wannabee Hollywood actress, Nina Van Pallandt (terribly miscast Julie Delpy), Irving made a promise to Edith not to jeopardize what he had rebuilt with her. Of course, one call is all he needed to be back in Nina’s arms. But, Irving was so obsessed with creating falsehoods that manipulating the truth into a lie when Edith found out had become second nature. Nevertheless, Edith played her part when it came to opening up a bank account in Switzerland and cashing the million dollar check made out to H.R. Hughes.

All this was happening during the turbulent political climate of the early 70’s when the country was feeling betrayed and deceived by our President, Richard Nixon. Archival footage of news reports and displays of anti war demonstrations are seen as backdrops with music of the era that reflect the times, as well as actual newsreels of Howard Hughes in his earlier years. So when Irving received a package with documents that revealed bribes and payoffs between Hughes and Nixon, the con artist thought he was in a place of power. As I said, little did Irving know who really controlled the strings.

Director Lasse Hallstrom delivers a nicely flowing pace and in keeping our interest, takes us on a fascinating whirlwind ride inside the mind of a complicated, yet engaging con artist with all his conniving strategies and vulnerabilities. It is a different, out of the comfort zone, role for Richard Gere that shows considerable range and he nails it.

Surely, when all was said and done; being caught as a fraud was not the notoriety Clifford Irving aimed for. As punishment, he received two years in prison, but served only 17 months. You could say the part of his life chronicled here has its pros and cons. Make that a capital P for Professional and a capital C for Con, of which he was both.