A fascinating true-life story, Lasse Hallström´s The Hoax comes close to hitting the mark at various points along the road but falls just short by the end.
Richard Gere plays Clifford Irving, the infamous hoaxster who made headlines in the early 1970´s with his ‘authorized´ autobiography of Howard Hughes that was eventually proven to be a complete forgery.
Along the way, however, Irving and ‘business partner´ Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina, who´s excellent) managed to almost scam publishing giant McGraw-Hill out of a million dollars for the rights to Hughes´ story (Hughes was a complete recluse at the time, so the publishers mostly had to take Irving´s word for his access to the billionaire; the conmen did manage to fool handwriting and voice analysts).
Gere is great as the conniving Irving, but the film fails as a character study; the offered reasons for his hoax are little more than he´s a conman, and he needs money.
The rest of the film is a straightforward retelling of the story by Hallström; the story so compelling that the film thrives just by detailing how this thing was pulled off.
But in the end, the whole enterprise is sunk as The Hoax ventures darker political territory, and the film alleges that Nixon´s fear over the potential content in Irving´s book eventually led to the Watergate scandal.
It never quite convinces, however – ironic in this film about hoaxes – and often feels as if the writers are reaching for credibility by tying Irving´s story to something of, perhaps, greater importance; entirely unnecessary.
A documentary on same subject would likely prove more rewarding; on that note, check out Orson Welles´ F for Fake, which comes close enough.