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The Hoax

Starring Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden
Julie Delpy, Stanley Tucci, Eli Wallach
Screenplay by William Wheeler
Based on a novel by Clifford Irving
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

IN SHORT: A good sit for those who remember the original hullabaloo. [Rated R for Profanity and Brief Nudity. 115 minutes]

For those whose only exposure to the life of Howard Hughes is from the Leo DiCario starrer The Aviator, here is the other side of the coin. At the end of his life, Hughes became a recluse, hiding in various hotel rooms guarded by loyal Mormons -- do not ask us to explain that -- and slowly losing his mind to a mental disorder that, so we've read, could have been treated with a simple one-pill-a-day regimine. He spent the last fifteen or so years of his life in hiding, making him a fine target for a down on his luck writer named Clifford Irving (Richard Gere), who sold an allegedly authentic autobiography to the prestigious McGraw-Hill publishing company based on the proposition that it made no sense to him either why he should be chosen by the looney billionaire.

That, plus a lot of forgery on the part of Irving. It's all detailed in this fictionalized retelling of the story which we crammed into an overcrowded screening schedule -- that means we planted in a screening room and had no "real people" reactions to go by when all was said and done. So, simply, we checked out the comments over on the IMDB from the few young 'uns who did get to see the film in a larger preview situation. They, of the Leo brigade, didn't care for the film. We, who remember the events vaguely -- Cranky was barely teenaged when this all went down -- had a much better experience with the film. So, onwards . . .

At the time of this story, Hughes is the richest, most powerful non-politico in the world. He's also been MIA for years. Writer Clifford Irving's (Richard Gere) career is going down in flames. Desperate for a hot pitch and big advance he concocts the Big Idea -- selling a heavily researched biography to his publisher as an "autobiography," certain that the reclusive Hughes would never come out of seclusion to disavow the project. Bringing long time long time reseach associate Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) into the conspiracy, Irving hoodwinks his editor, Andrea "not her real name" Tate (Hope Davis) and her boss Shelton Fisher (Stanley Tucci), President of McGraw-Hill, into fronting a million dollar advance which he steals by way of an identity theft scheme involving his wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden) and then delivers a manuscript, containing information stolen from one-time Hughes Tool Company CEO Noah Dietrich (Eli Wallach) whose own book about his time with Hughes. The how of the theft is fiction. The fact of the theft is, well, fact. That, and the mysterious contents of a large box of Hughes ToolCo. files which arrive in the mail bring the book above the horizon of the Nixon administration. There is a minor subplot involving Irving's mistress Baroness Nina Van Pallandt (Julie Delpy) which doesn't do much more than pad the running time.

For Cranky, who didn't understand what the hubbub was all about when it was happening, the film was a good sit. If Hughes' lunacy is a mere footnote, then perhaps the IMDB comments are correct. But it isn't their site, so . . .

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Hoax, he would have paid . . .


If you're old enough to remember Nixon first hand, meaning you're old enough to have some personal exposure to this story, the Nixon connection will deliver both a jolt and a good laugh. We're not going to spill it.

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