MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Richard Gere as CLIFFORD IRVING
Alfred Molina as DICK SUSKIND
Hope Davis as ANDREA TATE
Marcia Gay Harden as EDITH IRVING
Stanley Tucci as SHELTON FISHER
Julie Delpy as NINA VAN PALLANDT
Eli Wallach as NOAH DIETRICH
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
BY KEVIN CARR
What struck me most about the DVD release of “The Hoax” was not the real Clifford Irving’s gumption or brilliance in orchestrating one of the biggest publishing hoaxes of the century. Instead, what struck me was what a gullible dumbass Mike Wallace is.
The film stars Richard Gere as Irving, a nobody writer who pretends to be writing the biography of Howard Hughes. Sure, this doesn’t mean a lot to us in today’s world. In fact, most of the movie-going audience doesn’t even know who Howard Hughes is, except as the guy from the Martin Scorsese picture a few years back. But this was a big deal in the 1970s. So much so that Irving scored a multimillion dollar deal with some of the biggest names in publishing.
Directed by Lasse Hallström, whose films I generally find decent but never stellar, “The Hoax” is an interesting study into the lengths people will go to for fame and fortune – and how they can dig themselves deeper and deeper in a hole. The acting is pretty solid with both Gere and Alfred Molina carrying the film. Marcia Gay Harden is only so-so as Irving’s wife, but fortunately, she’s not in much of the film.
At times the film becomes more about Richard Gere and his Oscar grab than about the story, and it breaks down a bit when we get too much into the personal lives of the characters. But the bait-and-switch moments as Irving plays the media are the highlights.
The bonus features include deleted scenes with commentary and two feature commentary tracks. But the real interesting features are the ones that focus on Mike Wallace. There’s a retrospective featurette about the real Clifford Irving, which features Wallace, but the real gem is the extended interview with Wallace himself. On one hand, Wallace puts himself up as a hard-core journalist, but at the same time he excuses the fact he was duped by basically saying that everyone was duped. These features don’t just reveal what a charlatan Irving was, but also how lazy our so-called investigative journalists were, even 35 years ago.