The art of the confidence scheme is difficult to pull off successfully. Even the best con artists get caught at one point; but sometimes the more egregious schemes are fascinating tales of unlikely success and monumental failure. And when Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) tried to con a book publisher with a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, the events behind it are as fascinating as the scheme he used.
Irving, who had a previous book turned down for publication, concocted a scheme with a good friend (Alfred Molina) to write an autobiography about one of America’s most reclusive and fascinating billionaires. Normally this process would require Hughes, notoriously private and paranoid, to tell his story to Irving. Irving decided to write the book on his own and fake everything involved that would require the involvement of the man whose own biopic (The Aviator) was nominated for an Academy Award. Pulling old military records, as well as walking into a fortunate turn with a former Hughes confidante, Irving nearly pulled off the con of a lifetime until Hughes himself came out to debunk the book as a fake.
The Hoax follows Irving from the rejection of the book prior to the autobiography through the attempted publication of the Hughes’ book. Faking interviews, inventing stories and finding himself increasingly as paranoid as Hughes was noted to be, it’s a unique look at a man trying to pull one over using increasingly desperate gambles to keep his con alive. It becomes interesting to see what Irving will do next to try and keep the con going; it’s a series of desperate gambles that keep paying off until the one thing he never counted on comes out to dash his scheme.
Delayed in post-production for quite some time, there’s a reason the film was dumped into theatres on a limited run during the summer season. While the film is about hoax, it itself takes plenty of liberties with the story itself to make it almost completely fictional. While the differences between the reality and the fiction of Irving’s story have been documented numerous places, the film tends to distort a lot of the facts involved in the case to make it more cinematic. While it makes for a better story, it’s telling that a film about a hoax has plenty of falsehoods and exaggerations about the hoax itself in it.
It effectively cancels out another in an increasingly number of strong, offbeat roles from Gere. At the time receiving rave reviews for his role in The Hunting Party, his version of Irving is an interesting man. Desperate to be published and infuriated that the deal behind his last book fell through, we sympathize with his desire to get back at the publishing firm that seemingly dashed his hopes. Gere takes a character that shouldn’t be especially likable, considering various things he does that aren’t likable acts, but he infuses the character with enough charm that despite his character flaws he’s still a plucky hero trying to put a thumb in the eye of an uncaring, unforgiving corporation. He’s still sympathetic to the end, allowing us to feel a sense of loss when his scheme is eventually undone. It’s an effective role for him, playing to his strengths and allowing him to be an effective anti-hero.
The Hoax, then, is seemingly a flawed piece about a flawed man.
The Blu-ray contains two special features previously found on the original DVD release.
Stranger than Fiction is a piece on the hoax itself and the controversy behind it. Going back to talk about the sort of impact and intrigue around Hughes at the time, the cast and crew come together to talk about Irving and why he did what he did. Comparing to a piece of performance art, it’s a broad piece about the film that doesn’t have that much depth to it but has plenty of width in the diverse amount of things that are spoken of.
Deleted Scenes are included with commentary from director Lasse Hallstrom and the film’s writer, William Wheeler. They weren’t in the film for a good reason, as the director and writer explain.
If you absolutely loved this film and want to see it in Blu-Ray then it’s a purchasable film. Unfortunately there isn’t anything new on the Blu-Ray release.
Miramax presents The Hoax. Directed by Lasse Hallström. Written by William Wheeler, based on the novel by Clifford Irving. Starring Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Julie Delpy. Running time: 116 minutes. Rated R. Released: May 7, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.