Monday, January 14, 2008


Lasse comes home

By Edward Copeland
When The Hoax opened in early 2007, most of the praise it received was for Richard Gere. While Gere does give one of his better performances, the surprise to me when I caught up with it on DVD is that Lasse Hallstrom directed it. In a way, the movie is a bigger comeback for Hallstrom than Gere, now that the director, though still working for Miramax, has been freed from the Weinsteins' serfdom that produced lame and worse films such as The Shipping News, Chocolat and The Cider House Rules.

While The Hoax isn't a great film, it's more indicative of the career that made Hallstrom one to watch when he was making movies such as My Life as a Dog, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and, my personal favorite, Once Around.

I wonder if Hallstrom had a great moment when he realized that he didn't have Harvey and Bob controlling his chains that looked like that moment when the Wicked Witch's henchmen realized Margaret Hamilton was now a pool of water. Back to the movie at hand.

The Hoax does a fairly good job telling the story of the writer Clifford Irving, who almost fooled the world that he had an exclusive autobiography of Howard Hughes, done with the loony tycoon's cooperation, back in the early 1970s. Gere plays Irving well, especially in the film's later passages, where you're never quite sure as a viewer what is real and what isn't.

Gere though is just one small part of a solid cast which includes Marcia Gay Harden as Irving's wife, Hope Davis as his editor and Stanley Tucci as a publishing exec.

The best part though goes to Alfred Molina as Dick Suskind, Irving's friend and eventual co-conspirator who, in some ways, reminded me of Molina's Tony-nominated role in Yasmina Reza's play Art. Molina manages to wring laughs and pathos from his role as a man unwittingly over his head but who's still able to enjoy it at times.

The Hoax does hit some speedbumps over the course of its running time, but for the most part it is enjoyable. Let's hope it's just the first stage in Lasse Hallstrom's emancipation.

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