Blu-ray Review: The Hoax

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The Hoax, originally released to largely positive notices in 2006, chronicles the true adventure of author Clifford Irving and his researcher Richard Suskind as they concocted a phony “autobiography” of Howard Hughes. In 1971, this pair battled a career low point. Irving’s latest novel had just been rejected and, in a fit of inspired desperation, he announced that he was writing the most important book of the century. Hughes' status as a legendary recluse made it unlikely, Irving reasoned, that he would emerge simply to denounce the project. Without any direct connection to Hughes, Irving begins forging handwritten notes and transcribing “interviews” he created himself.

As with any film adapted from actual events, certain liberties were apparently taken in retelling Irving’s story. The real Irving himself took issue with some of these changes. His book is out there, supposedly more accurate, but then again who really knows the truth? Director Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog), working from a screenplay by William Wheeler, keeps things moving along at a fairly brisk pace for most of the film’s 116 minutes. As Irving, Richard Gere shows the increasing obsession that creeps in as the hoax becomes deeper and deeper. Irving, as depicted here, seems to practically start believing he really is writing Hughes’ official story.

The fun of the film is seeing how Irving and Suskind, with assistance from Irving’s wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden), conspire to make the folks at McGraw-Hill believe they are in regular contact with Hughes. As Suskind, Alfred Molina has several hilarious moments. “He gave me a prune,” Suskind blurts out to McGraw-Hill agents, attempting to offer evidence of his meetings with Hughes. As Irving becomes more committed to perpetuating the hoax, Suskind becomes increasingly weary and paranoid. But the money is too tempting for either man to back down, even at their increasing peril as their façade begins to crumble.

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Nothing particularly interesting to note about Echo Bridge’s 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer except that it looks quite good. Oliver Stapleton’s cinematography is pretty meat-and-potatoes here. The drab, early ‘70s period costumes and art direction didn’t really give him much of a color palette. That said this is a more than serviceable transfer that doesn’t present any problems. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix offers clear dialogue, which is about all it needed to do. Rears are engaged so little at times that I didn’t detect anything from them for long stretches. That’s not a knock, as there isn’t really any call for this track to be more active than it is.

The main supplement here is a commentary by director Hallström and writer Wheeler. As mentioned earlier, quite of bit of artistic license was taken in adapting Clifford Irving’s own account. The commentary addresses some of those issues. Deleted scenes, also with optional commentary, total about 14 minutes, with an additional 19 minutes of “outtakes and unused clips.” Lastly, there’s a short “making of” featurette that gives us a brief look at the real Irving.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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