Feature

The Hoax

A desperate author writes a fake biography of Howard Hughes.

In 1971, small-time author Clifford Irving nearly pulled off a massive literary fraud, said Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. He forged a letter from billionaire Howard Hughes, stating that Irving had been chosen to write the definitive Hughes biography. His publisher bought the story and the book'”they signed a million-dollar advance over to Irving immediately. Irving, though, had never received Hughes' authorization'”he'd never even met the man. But he counted on Hughes' reclusive nature to protect his lies. Lasse Hallström's film about the incident 'œwalks a fine line, agog at Irving's effrontery and nerve, but not feeling the need to either lionize or punish him for it.' The narrative, as shaped by screenwriter William Wheeler, takes us inside Irving's mind, said Gene Seymour in Newsday. 'œRichard Gere scores a career triumph' in portraying the writer's cunning and desperation. His inner conflict makes this movie'”a strange mix of caper, tragedy, fantasia, and black comedy'”the year's most surprisingly brilliant film. The Hoax is perfect until Hallström decides to expand his focus, said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. He compares Irving to Richard Nixon, the great liar of his time. 'œSuddenly, we are plunged into talk of Watergate and airline-industry deals, and the joy starts to drip from the movie, which cannot quite bear so much reality.'

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