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The Hoax

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (For Language)

Running Time: 115 minutes

Starring: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Julie Delpy and Stanley Tucci

Screenplay by: William Wheeler
Based upon the book by: Clifford Irving

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Lasse Halstrom and Writer William Wheeler, Audio Commentary with Producer Leslie Holleran and Producer Joshua D. Maurer, Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, Stranger Than Fiction, Mike Wallace: Reflections On A Con

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selection (12 Scenes)

Released: October 16th, 2007

 

 

"The Hoax" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it's very spiffy transfer. The image looks pristine, and there is no edge enhancement. Fleshtones are strong, detail is lovely and color saturation is fantastic. Colors are bold, well-saturated and quite vibrant, and the early-70s decor and cityscapes really pop right at you and come to life. The only problems I noticed are some noise, edge halos and shimmering here and there. In all, this is a very visually pleasing and sharp transfer.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track fits the material. The film is very dialogue driven, so surround effects take a back seat here. The voices of the actors though do come out very clear and are easy to hear, and the music - such as the 60s and early 70s songs, plus Carter Burwell's original score - are mixed very well and add to the atmosphere. Subwoofer use doesn't amount too much, but there are a few surrounds that come out, but on a smaller scale: cars speeding off, background chatter and a helicopter landing, to name a few things. Like the transfer, this 5.1 mix is quite pleasing.

There is also a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

 

 

Two Audio Commentaries are on the disc. First up is one with Director Lasse Halstrom and Writer William Wheeler. This is commentary is a pleasure to listen to, since each speaker gets an equal amount of talking time and each gets to talk about their respective craft. Halstrom and Wheeler really get along, and do ask each other questions about their interest in the material and work processes throughout the movie. The two discuss adjustments made to the script, techniques Halstrom wanted to give the movie more flair, the performances, thoughts on Clifford Irving and so much more. There's never a quiet or dull moment here, as each man comes off as thoughtful and very articulate. For those who liked the movie, and want to know more about its development and production, this delightful commentary is a must listen.

The second commentary features Producer Leslie Holleran and Producer Joshua D. Maurer. This is also a strong track, and begins with each producer talking how they got involved with the project (Holleran is Halstrom's producing partner, and Maurer - in an intriguing tale - speaks of how he discovered the material to begin with). There's a bit on the production, but the producers spend a good amount of time talking about the script development, its themes and going into what happened in the real Irving's life as compared to what's on screen. It's interesting how they needed to give Irving a motivation in the movie, since in real life he never quite said why he lied. Like Halstrom and Wheeler, Holleran and Maurer are also articulate and thoughtful, and seem to have a real passion for the material and happy how it all turned out. This is also a must listen and there's so much to gain from their comments, especially if you want to know more about the real story behind the movie.

There are six Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary from Hallstrom and Wheeler. The scenes, in non-anamorphic widescreen, are really amusing, but don't add much to the story or characters that we don't already know that's in the final film. The two's comments are pretty good, and it seems the scenes were mainly cut for pacing reasons. There's also an Extended Scene - called "Business With Pleasure" that lasts about six-and-a-half minutes. It's an interesting watch, but it was a wise call to trim this sequence down. The scene is edited, but it's not final: we see the clapboards before the scene begins, and the sound doesn't seem final - it's just the actors talking.

Stranger Than Fiction is a nine minute featurette giving background on the real Clifford Irving, as the filmmakers and cast try to dissect why he would pull off such a stunt. About half of the piece focuses on the acting chops of Gere, Molina and the directorial skills of Lasse Hallstrom, and reflections from the cast and crew what it's like to work with all three. Gere, Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, producer Joshua D. Mauder and screenwriter William Wheeler are all interviewed. (Plus journalist Mike Wallace opens the featurette.) A bit promo-ish, but still a decent watch.

Mike Wallace: Reflections On A Con has the famed broadcaster talking about the real Clifford Irving for about four-and-a-half minutes, with clips from the film, stills and Wallace's interview of the real Irving spliced in. (How come that whole interview isn't included on this DVD in its entirety?) Footage from here is also used in the "Stranger Than Fiction" featurette, and this seems to a cull of the DVD producers interview of Wallace. Wallace seems to use the word "persuasive" in every other sentence, and talks that he was swindled by Irving - despite asking questions laced with skepticism. It's worth a gander since it's so brief, but all that it does is really hammer home how great of a liar Irving was.

 

"The Hoax" is a fun screwball comedy and character study, that features a great performance by Richard Gere and wry supporting turns from Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci and Marcia Gay Harden. The DVD hits the sweet spots: a strong transfer, fine 5.1 mix and some nice supplements - including two terrific commentaries - that delve into the making of the film and the true story behind it. Certainly worth buying if you liked the movie, and it's also a fine Saturday night rental.