The Hoax

 
(i)

 

Amoral con artist's true tale will pull adults in.
  • Review Date: October 15, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main character is a charming anti-hero who's manipulative, deceitful, and narcissistic. He's surrounded by people who either bend to his will or want to believe him for their own financial gain. Even his best friend -- a good, caring man -- is deceived by him and participates in his scam. Almost everyone pays a price for his/her iffy behavior, but that price is relatively small. No characters are portrayed as honest, moral, or corruption-proof.

Violence

Violence is limited to an imagined sequence that includes one punch and one fall.

Sex

No overt sexual activity. Two scenes take place after sex has occurred; one includes a glimpse of breast. It's later discovered that in one instance the sex was paid for.

Language

Lots of swearing -- particularly "f--k."

Consumerism

One shot of TAB cola.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking and smoking. Lead characters are drunk in several sequences. Main character is revealed to self-medicate with prescription drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that most kids and teens probably won't be interested in this sophisticated drama about literary fraud. Lying, criminality, greed, and other iffy behavior are treated with humor, and the man behind it all is portrayed as likeable -- even heroic -- in some instances. Characters break the law and hurt the people they love with ease and very little conscience, and there's lots of swearing and some drinking and drug use.

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What's the story?

In this entertaining, fact-based story about perception and deception, Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) and his co-conspirators -- wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden) and best friend Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) -- commit the literary crime of the 20th century. Facing a difficult road personally and professionally, Irving tries to convince the publishing world that reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes has asked him to co-write his "autobiography." Brilliant and charismatic Irving uses the public record and prior Hughes appearances to re-create the man's handwriting, vocal mannerisms, and personality quirks. Each new request for proof from Irving's unwitting "marks" in the publishing industry requires the writer and his partners to take increasingly daring measures and extreme license with the truth. And time after time, just when it appears the whole lie is about to be revealed, Irving surprises us with even more ingenuity and bravado.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Working from a script by William Wheeler that relies on Irving's own account from his book The Hoax, director Lasse Hallström successfully uses humor and complex, nuanced characters to bring Irving's brazen swindle to the screen. The film's second half -- in which Irving begins to come unglued as events catch up with him -- isn't as strong as the first. The moments that show his mind breaking down are brave, but they don't always live harmoniously with the rest of the movie's humor.

This is an unusual outing for Gere -- there's no sly smirking here, just fine acting. Molina turns in a striking performance as well, and the two do great work together in all of their scenes. The supporting players, script, and overall production values are excellent, making THE HOAX an enjoyable, intelligent movie.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Irving used the media to help make his fraud convincing. Do you think he could have pulled it off in today's more sophisticated media environment? With even more information about public figures now available on TV and the Internet, do you think they're more vulnerable to manipulation and deceit? How about regular people? Do you think it's appropriate to use humor to show serious themes? Families can also discuss how easily people can be fooled if they're willing to buy into a deception. Why did other characters believe Irving? Did they have something to gain?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 6, 2007
DVD release date:October 16, 2007
Cast:Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Richard Gere
Director:Lasse Hallstrom
Studio:Miramax
Genre:Drama
Run time:115 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language.

This review of The Hoax was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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