Anthony's Film Review
The Hoax (2006)
A satisfying true story of cunning deception in the literary world...
Before I talk about The Hoax, let me mention why I like this film. I like it for the same reason I like movies such as Catch Me If You Can, Zodiac, and The Pursuit of Happyness. They are based on true stories and real people that I never knew about before seeing the film. Sometimes, movies can be more than just entertainment by teaching something new, even though one may always question the accuracy of any film based on a true story. Still, if it weren't for the films mentioned above, I would never have known about the trials and successes of Frank Abagnale, Jr., Robert Graysmith, or Christopher Gardner.
And if it weren't for The Hoax, I would not have known too much about Clifford Irving, the American author who wrote a so-called autobiography that turned out to be a hoax. Richard Gere sinks into the role of this deceptive writer along with Alfred Molina, who plays the friend and co-conspirator Dick Suskind. It all starts with Clifford submitting a manuscript for a fictional novel to McGraw-Hill that looks like it will sell. Unfortunately, he is told at the last minute that it will not be published based on advanced reviews. He is left with much disappointment but does not let that stop him.
However, he does fights back in a rather foolish way. During a meeting with staff at McGraw-Hill, he quickly says that he's working on another book: a biography of Howard Hughes. Initially, there is skepticism. There is enough gullibility, however, for the staff to believe Clifford when he says that he actually had contact with Howard Hughes. How does he convince them further? He produces what is supposedly authentic writings by Hughes himself. I say supposedly because Clifford reproduces them by meticulously copying Hughes' documents in the exact same handwriting, all from photographs of these documents in an issue of Newsweek.
What follows is a series of dishonest ways to convince the publisher that Clifford is indeed meeting with Howard Hughes and doing interviews for the book. At times, there is a lot of fast-paced deceit because deadlines have to be met. It's just amazing to see a hoax like this get pulled off for quite some time. This is a biography of not just anybody. This is supposed to be the life story of a fascinatingly wealthy billionaire who is also an eccentric recluse. The public interest in this figure would be great either way. When you consider all of this, you can see why a major publisher like McGraw-Hill would pay an advance for something as exclusive as a Howard Hughes biography and pray that no competitor gets their hands on it.
For this film, you can probably guess how it ends. I can also tell you that there aren't too many surprises with it. Still, the film is good because it tells a true story and you might not know much about Clifford Irving and his "authorized" biography of Howard Hughes. And speaking of biographical films, I always love it when there is epilogue text after the last scene. There's that feeling of satisfaction when you see a story wrap up nicely in that way. The Hoax is certainly no exception.
For more information about The Hoax, visit the Internet Movie Database.