The Hoax

Lasse Hallström

The Hoax
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Back in the ’70s, author/biographer Clifford Irving broke the cardinal rule of biography writing: After promising his publishers an all-access portrait of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, Irving proceeded to make the whole thing up. Irving’s weird, hubristic story is a great one, and director Lasse Hallström’s Irving biopic, The Hoax, does a decent job of bringing it to life. But The Hoax isn’t the first film to examine the Irving-Hughes affair, nor is it the best. It’s hardly fair to compare Hallström’s relatively sturdy dramatization to iconic director Orson Welles’s Irving examination, the weird, engaging documentary/essay F For Fake. But Welles was tickled by a part of the Irving saga The Hoax mostly glosses over. Shortly before Irving began his Hughes scam, he wrote a biography about famous art forger Elmyr de Hory. Welles wondered if Irving’s close contact with the famous liar was his inspiration. The Hoax mentions de Hory only in passing and it’s this failure to examine a crucial part of the Irving saga that’s the film’s biggest shortcoming. Instead, The Hoax indulges in unnecessary dramatics, like when Irving (Richard Gere) hallucinates Hughes’s secret police have kidnapped him. Hallström, Gere and writer William Wheeler do a good job of bringing charismatic, brash Irving to life. They convince us Irving’s a great liar. We want to know why he’s lying.
Lindsay McCarney