The Hoax DVD: Review By Dodd

A well-crafted true story and a scenery-chewing Richard Gere
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A well-crafted true story and a scenery-chewing Richard Gere
THE BAD
The special features could have a little more effort behind them.
THE FEATURE
Richard Gere is one of those actors that is not known for playing an array of different and unrecognizable characters, but rather different characters with his consistent mug. The man graces every film with a calm smile on his face with the same chill demeanor yet there is something about him that sticks out as an accomplished actor that rises above average. Gere may not be the man of a thousand faces, but when he plays a character triggers every emotion to perfection. Whether he is a c*cky attorney in Primal Fear, or a c*cky singing lawyer in Chicago, the man has talent. In The Hoax, the actor dyes his hair black and steps into the shoes of Clifford Iirving, one of America's most notorious liars.

Clifford is a struggling writer just waiting for his big break in the literary circle. When he is up to his eyeballs and debt and is expecting a deal-maker from McGraw Hill, he is slapped with the disappointment that his book is not happening. In a desperate attempt to make some dough, he takes it upon himself to write a work of fiction that is sure to knock the publishers' socks off. But this story is only fictional to Clifford and his co-conspirator Dick (Alfred Molina, spectacular as always). What Clifford is writing is a biographical account of millionaire Howard Hughes' life except without any authority from his subject. Being that Hughes is a hermit and a recluse, he Clifford foresees all the lies he can possibly fabricate without any resistance from the anti-social airplane mogul.

Unfortunately, Clifford finds that not all lies go unnoticed. While he receives fat pay checks from McGraw Hill, the consequences of his words begin to stack up. Experts on Hughes' life and mannerisms begin to file in questioning the authenticity of Clifford's accounts, forcing Clifford and Dick to cover their trails with fake taped interviews and even more elaborate, fake stories about their encounters with Hughes. The lies and the insanity even lead Clifford to briefly contemplate if he himself is becoming Howard Hughes from originating his non-existent life story.

The Hoax is not a hard-hitting, dramatic force, yet it manages to make my list as one of the best films so far this year. The storyline is sometimes humorous and sometimes dramatic making for an all-around entertaining film. However, what really struck me is its in-depth understanding of humans and the mistakes that they make. In this decade where discomfort is the new fad in humor, The Hoax doesn't attempt to give breathing room in the hole that these characters dig. Cliff is a smooth talker who rolls elaborate lies off his tongue so well that he can actually visualize his so-called conversations with Howard Hughes. Dick, on the other hand, seems like a more relatable character as he sweats and stammers nervously through his fabrications. We all have learned through little life experiences that lies always come back to bite us in the ass, and this movie follows what could be the biggest whopper of fibs that came tumbling down like a catastrophic avalanche.

Richard Gere is an actor who simply is who he is. I look at him and I see the same old Richard Gere with dyed hair, but I see him honing his skills well. As a man who takes his scheme for granted and sinks into guilt and insanity, Gere turns in one of the best performances this year. Then there is Alfred Molina, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest character actors in America. As Clifford's best friend and cohort, Molina brings a more human side to the film. While we ask how it is that Clifford can sleep at night, we see that gut-wrenching anxiety through Molina's eyes. Just watching the man is guaranteed to stimulate your sweat glands.
THE EXTRAS
Stranger Than Fiction

Here is the token featurette that all DVD's tend to include. The runtime is only 10 minutes, and the pace seems rushed, but it covers a lot of base as the director, screenwriter, and stars contribute their thoughts on the movie and Clifford Irving's real life actions.

Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con

This is one of the more insightful pieces that I wish were longer. Legendary 60 Minutes newsman reflects on Clifford Irving's story and sitting down with the charismatic liar. Listening to Wallace is like hearing an old man reflect on thrilling moments from the past. Wallace particularly emphasizes how Clifford Irving could be one of the most persuasive actors of all time.

Deleted Scenes and Extensive Scene

I believe it is fitting that these two can be lumped together into one category as they involve removed footage. The deleted scenes do what deleted scenes do and demonstrate why they were removed. We get more filler on Dick and Cliff creating lies, or more talk between Cliff and his mistress (Julie Delpy). Honestly, the film is perfect enough as it is, and did not need these elaborations. The "Business As Pleasure" extended scene is somewhat eye-catching simply due to the relevance of the original scene in the movie. This is a terrific scene in which Dick and Cliff painfully throw out one lame story after another to prominent publishing figures at a fancy restaurant. Molina is particularly cringe-inducing here, and worth watching.

Commentary

Believe it or not, there are actually two commentary tracks here. Both of these are from behind-the-scenes figures and do not include cast members. The first is done by director Lasse Hallstrom and writer Bill Wheeler. Both of these guys are pretty good about keeping their thoughts consistent with Wheeler doing most of the talking. However, they also have very soft voices and will stimulate sleepiness. The second track is with producers Leslie Holleran and Joshua Maurer, who seem less enthused to be participating in this track. Not only do they seem bored, but they don't seem to have much to say that pertains to the film. This is covered up with some uncomfortable chattering.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. Lasse Hallstrom is a terrific director that doesn't do anything sensational. He does know how to properly capture locations, time periods, and characters with sharp color and conservative cinematography.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Digital. There is an effective score here, but the best moments are the ones of awkward silence while watching these characters struggle through one fib after another.
THE PACKAGE
The case is a standard keep case with a front cover refashioned for DVD. The illustration is of Gere with the title of the film stamped across his mouth.
THE FINAL WORD
While I can't say the same thing about the lackluster special features, I can stand behind this film 100%. The Hoax is a terrific true story with elements of humor and drama that work together in perfect harmony. Gere delivers one of the best performances of the year as a charismatic liar, with Molina is equally wonderful in a supporting role. Like most films do, this film did not perform well in theaters, and I only hope it gets the attention it deserves. Buy or rent this film today!

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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