In the Dark

In the Register of Ka-ching!

The Hoax
Produced and distributed by Miramax Films
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Screenplay by William Wheeler

With The Hoax, Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom and his screenwriter, William Wheeler, have at long last given Clifford Irving his due.  They have done so by portraying their subject with about as much honesty as Irving did Howard Hughes when he concocted his infamous fake autobiography of the billionaire.  They have altered, misshaped, abridged, and invented.  In short, they have lied, exuberantly.  While I’ve frequently chided directors and writers for such shenanigans, I cannot stir myself to moral indignation in this case.  By thumbing their noses at the facts, Hallstrom and Wheeler have aspired to a higher truthiness, as Stephen Colbert might say.  Their narrative method can be understood as a gloss on Irving’s own fusion of reckless imagination and shameless chutzpah.  As such, it pays fitting tribute to a literary scoundrel while exposing the dunces in high places who allowed him to get as far as he did.

Playing Irving, Richard Gere sets the tone of this satire when he explains to his friend and accomplice Richard Suskind (Alfred Molina) how he conned the editors at McGraw-Hill and Time.  His technique is simplicity itself.  “The more outrageous I sound,” he gleefully confides, “the...

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