Friday, October 12, 2007

The Hoax DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Drama on DVD Chronicles Case of Bogus Howard Hughes Biography

Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) was a little-known novelist when, in 1970, he decided to pass off a work of fiction as the authorized memoir of Howard Hughes (Milton Buras). Because the famous recluse hadn’t spoken to the press in fifteen years, Irving was banking on the billionaire’s not breaking his self-imposed silence to denounce the book as a complete fraud.
Somehow, Irving duped McGraw-Hill into believing that the eccentric hermit had actually cooperated in the creation of the bogus biography. However, soon after the company coughed up close to a million-dollar advance, suspicions about the manuscript started to haunt the project, and the brazen con men found themselves having to rely on an increasingly elaborate ruse to silence the skeptics. And the pair might have managed to pull it off, had Hughes himself not finally decided to collapse their house of cards by making his first public appearance in ages to expose them as charlatans.
The entire scheme is amusingly recounted by The Hoax, a captivating character-driven drama directed by three-time, Oscar-nominee Lasse Hallstrom. Curiously, the gifted Swedish director decided to depict the disgraced ex-con sympathetically, less as the inveterate liar and shameless womanizer that he was known to be than as a cagy prankster and carefree bon vivant who misbehaved simply to enjoy the finer things in life.
Richard Gere is at his best in years, here, turning a remorseless lout into a likable underdog. Though worthwhile for its beguiling plot alone, this period piece earns extra credit for the great lengths it went to recreate the ambience of the early Seventies, thereby magically transporting the viewer back to that bygone era.
Clifford Irving gets the last laugh, while Howard Hughes must be spinning in his grave, given this revisionist tale which turns the truth on its head.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity.
Running time: 115 minutes
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes with optional commentary by the director, extended scene, feature commentary by the director and scriptwriter, feature commentary by the producers, “the Making of” featurette, plus Mike Wallace’s “Reflections on a Con.”

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