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The Hoax Blu-ray Review

The Hoax (2007) movie poster The Hoax

Theatrical Release: April 6, 2007 / Running Time: 116 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Lasse Hallström / Writers: Clifford Irving (book), William Wheeler (screenplay)

Cast: Richard Gere (Clifford Irving), Alfred Molina (Dick Suskind), Marcia Gay Harden (Edith Irving), Hope Davis (Andrea Tate), Julie Delpy (Nina Van Pallandt), Eli Wallach (Noah Dietrich), Stanley Tucci (Shelton Fisher), Željko Ivanek (Ralph Graves), John Carter (Harold McGraw), Christopher Evan Welch (Albert Vanderkamp), Peter McRobbie (George Gordon Holmes), John Bedford Lloyd (Frank McCullough), David Aaron Baker (Brad Silber)

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Richard Gere is one of the most famous actors to have never been nominated for an Academy Award. I wouldn't call it a case of Hollywood injustice, but it is kind of strange that someone who has been starring in movies on a regular basis for thirty-five years has not yet been recognized. The stat is even more curious when you consider that Gere has primarily dabbled in adult dramas, the kind that turn up on Oscar radars, and has repeatedly shared the screen with actors who are nominated (Louis Gossett Jr. and Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Edward Norton in Primal Fear, Diane Lane in Unfaithful).
Hurting Gere's case (more than that old gerbil story) is the fact that he rarely settles for supporting roles and rarely plays against type. He's always the confident professional whose slick exterior can hide sly ulterior motives. He pulls off that act fine, but his levels remain constant and there's nary a surprise to be had.

Still, Gere's reliable comfort zone has gotten him into Oscar discussions at least. His flashy turn in Chicago won a Golden Globe and picked up a Screen Actors Guild nomination (typically one of Oscar's strongest indicators), making it a slight snub for him not to join the film's four Oscar-nominated cast members. Last year, the timely drama Arbitrage campaigned hard for Gere, playing up the never-before-nominated angle in critic's quotes, but once again, Gere had to settle for merely a Golden Globe nod. In between those was 2007's The Hoax, a film that might have given Gere one of his best shots at Academy acknowledgement. Alas, this Miramax drama opened in April and any buzz had long since faded by the time the awards season began in earnest.

"The Hoax" stars Richard Gere as Clifford Irving, a writer purporting to have gotten to collaborate on an autobiography of Howard Hughes.

The Hoax requires more of a performance from Gere than most of his work, starting with a prosthetic nose, a slight New York accent, and something other than his increasingly salty, otherwise unchanging salt and pepper hairdo. Those alterations are warranted because Gere portrays a real person in what the cover deservedly bills an unbelievably true story.

In 1971, Clifford Irving is somewhat known for his nonfiction portrait of a master art forger. Irving is looking to sell a novel to the same publisher, McGraw-Hill, but after some promise, they aren't interested. He then informs his agent (Hope Davis) that he is about to offer her "the most important book of the 20th century." After some speculation and an opportune footstep on a paint-covered magazine, he decides that his big idea is nothing less than an exclusive autobiography from reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Irving has no access whatsoever to the famous tycoon, but neither does anyone else of note, making the book's proposal unverifiable and allowing the charismatic Irving to speak on his subject's behalf.

Winning the interest of McGraw-Hill and their trust in the book's legitimacy based on a scrutinized forged note and Hughes' legendary eccentricity, Irving sets out to write this faux memoir, collecting and swiftly spending rich advance in the process. Irving's partner in this bold charade of journalism is his friend, children's author Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina), who earns himself a promotion to co-author while jeopardizing his weak heart with every daring deception.

Fellow writer Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) goes along with Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) on this wild, illicit ride.

Adapted from the real Irving's 1981 book about his remarkable ordeal, The Hoax is witty and fun in the hands of director Lasse Hallström, who is comfortable outside his wheelhouse of pastoral dramas. Nicely shot and full of early '70s pop songs (including recurring use of Richie Havens' version of "Here Comes the Sun"),
the film entertains as a whimsical buddy comedy while simultaneously building real tension from the dramatized criminal action. It finds creative ways around being a movie where people simply talk in publisher conference rooms, following Irving and Suskind out on the road, cinematically recreating their invented anecdotes, and even transforming Irving into Hughes for dictation. Like most con men, Irving is charming, convincing, and unwilling to quit and therefore makes for a compelling antihero.

The film gets off-track slightly by its end, as it manufactures some paranoid conspiracy and tries to establish a damaging link between President Nixon and Hughes uncovered in Irving's manuscript that leads to the infamous Watergate break-in. Irving's love life, which finds him torn between his wife (Marcia Gay Harden, adopting a cartoonish Northern European accent) and his mistress, a Mediterranean baroness (Julie Delpy) with acting aspirations, isn't all that interesting or relevant. Still, the good qualities easily outnumber the bad ones, making The Hoax a fascinating and watchable caper.

Striking out at the box office, where it recouped less than a third of its $25 million budget domestically, The Hoax has unsurprisingly ended up at Echo Bridge Home Entertainment along with Miramax's less profitable titles. A year after reissuing it on DVD in an apparently barebones platter, Echo Bridge gave the film its Blu-ray debut, initially as a Best Buy exclusive in January but one that moves to general retail on the first Tuesday of May.

The Hoax Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 7, 2013 (Best Buy Exclusive: January 27, 2013)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($6.99 SRP; February 14, 2012) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released by Buena Vista on DVD (October 16, 2007)


The Hoax is treated to outstanding picture quality here. The 1.85:1 presentation is easily the best-looking transfer I've seen on an Echo Bridge release (though in fairness, this is the youngest film I've seen them tackle on Blu-ray). The clean and sharp print provides great detail. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is good too. It opens up nicely for needle drops and the occasional bit of atmosphere (for instance, a helicopter features at the beginning in a sequence later revisited). Unfortunately but expectedly, the film and all of its bonus features lose the subtitles they had on DVD. I'm not sure what puts English SDH subtitles, a standard inclusion for every other studio I can think of, beyond the reach of Echo Bridge, but their refusal to bother with them must cost them some sales and customer satisfaction.

The real Clifford Irving lies about interactions with Howard Hughes that never happened in a "60 Minutes" interview excerpted in "Stranger Than Fiction." The new "Outtakes and Unused Clips" reel includes alternate edits of scenes like this one, in which Irving consults publisher Andrea Tate (Hope Davis) at a masquerade ball.


Defying expectations, Echo Bridge's Blu-ray drops some extras from Disney's 2007 DVD while also adding something not previously released.

The all-standard definition bonus features begin with "Stranger Than Fiction" (9:04),
a routine but good making-of featurette that collects thoughts from the cast (with Harden sometimes hanging on to her accent), crew, and Mike Wallace, whose "60 Minutes" interviews of the real Clifford Irving (otherwise absent) from both the 1970s and the 2000s are excerpted here.

Next, we get the all-new inclusion titled "Outtakes and Unused Clips" (19:10). These really just appear to be alternate versions of scenes, ten of them judging by the chapter breaks. Presented in letterboxed 4:3 with time codes over them, they play in random order and include such unfinished touches as a shot of green screen and a crowd dancing to no music. Who knows where Echo Bridge dug these up? Perhaps Disney was saving them for the Blu-ray release they never gave the film?

Baroness mistress Nina (Julie Delpy) addresses Clifford Irving in the park in this deleted scene. An excerpt from The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" draws attention away from the ghastly empty space of The Hoax's Blu-ray menu.

Moving on, we get another collection of deleted scenes (13:31), these the ones found on The Hoax's Disney DVD. These too are presented in 4:3, only without time codes or chapter stops. They are, however, equipped with soft-spoken optional audio commentary by director Lasse Hallström and screenwriter William Wheeler and feature some errant identifying cards.

The extras conclude with a feature audio commentary by director Hallström and writer Wheeler. Their reserved discussion doles out information sporadically. Wheeler likes to point out plot holes and liberties taken, while Hallström mainly agrees and defends the inaccuracies.

Sizable stretches of quietude and mediocre judgment of what to talk about keep this track from meeting its potential and make it one not to sweat skipping.

As for what is dropped from Disney's DVD, more than you would expect: a more spirited second audio commentary by producers Leslie Holleran and Joshua D. Maurer, an extended scene showing off Gere and Molina's improvisational chemistry, an Easter egg sharing the full recording of "Nixon's the One" (the deep end credits-excerpted theme song of Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign), and the 4½-minute short "Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con." It's odd that Echo Bridge would recycle some but not all of the old DVD's extras, especially since only the Easter egg might have posed an authoring challenge for them. The omissions clearly cannot be chalked up to space considerations, as this Blu-ray very narrowly exceeds single-layered capacity, filling up a little more than half of a BD-50.

The menu plays a snippet of The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" over a reformatting of the cover art that washes out the backdrop to Gere's larger head-on image. Please take a moment to appreciate the fact that a Rolling Stones song is heard on the menu of an Echo Bridge Blu-ray easily obtained for $5. Meanwhile, "The Wonder Years" is still not on DVD and Netflix's streaming versions replace Joe Cocker. Per usual, this Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback, but does not support bookmarks. There are no inserts or other distinguishing features to the standard blue keepcase.

A $100,000 advance is made out to Clifford Irving for a book he's lying about. Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) writes a titular word on a car window that's disconcertingly dirty on the inside.


Any Blu-ray selling for $5 ought to be a no-brainer for someone who likes the movie it holds, but fans of The Hoax may very well be dismayed to see it lose subtitles, an audio commentary, and other bonus features in the jump to high definition. Echo Bridge's highly pleasing feature presentation offers definite upgrades in picture and sound, while also picking up nearly twenty minutes of alternate scenes. If extras and subtitles are of no interest, you can pick up this disc without reservation. Still, it's frustrating that this couldn't just build upon the satisfactory original DVD and become the film's definitive release.

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Reviewed April 27, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Miramax Films, Bob Yari Productions, The Mark Gordon Company, City Entertainment,
2013 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and Miramax. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.