Anthony Lane, in his review in the New Yorker, asks whether we can believe Gere as a Jew. Why the hell not? Does every Jew have to look like Woody Allen in his book? That's quite a retarded comment, considering that Jews look like everything and everybody: like Lauren Bacall and like Mark Spitz and like Ali G, and like Albert Einstein, so really I've had it with the thing about people looking or not looking like a Jew. It's is the oldest, stupidest stereotype in the book. But we can believe the great Alfred Molina as another Jew because he is not as handsome? Puhleeze. Also, I was trying to discern if Gere, besides wavy hair, was wearing a slight nose prosthesis, and I'm afraid he was, which is totally unnecessary, but I couldn't really tell. I can't believe people still go for the nose shit.
In any case, the film documents in a very seductive, entertaining way the elaborate hoax that Irving perpetrated. You root for Irving and cannot but be amazed at his incredible command of spin. While Molina, his best friend and sidekick, sweats buckets and fears for his life, Gere just gets more emboldened with each breathtaking lie. It is almost sexy and you can feel Hallstrom, Gere and Molina having tons of infectious fun with the piling on of the lies. Also, it turns out that Gere and Molina are a wonderful cinematic pair. There is undeniable buddy chemistry between them. Their scenes together, which are most of the movie, are fantastic. It's as if Gere woke up from a long movie slumber of negligible characters and was happy to sink his teeth into this role with great relish and great skill. He is a very seductive actor and if there are a couple of key moments where perhaps a more accomplished actor could have gotten something deeper, he is quite believable as a narcissistic, put upon brilliant man with a chip on his shoulder, delusions of grandeur and humongous amounts of chutzpah. He has the right amount of likeable arrogance to pull it off.
Then of course, there is Alfred Molina, who is wonderfully awkward and funny, but mostly very moving as a good, loyal, decent friend who gets manipulated into the whole deal, relishing the prank and its potential windfall and dreading it at the same time. I liked his serious scenes much better than the funny shtick, but he is an actor of such warmth and aliveness, I love him to pieces. There are other welcome NY faces: Zeljko Ivanek, a great character actor, and Stanley Tucci sporting hair, Hope Davis and the delightful Eli Wallach, who still rocks at 120.
In the end, the movie is about everybody lying, about lying for money and power and glory. Lying is as American as apple pie, it seems. The movie tries to connect the Irving hoax to the Nixon paranoia, and apparently Hughes somehow was behind Nixon's motives for breaking into the Watergate Hilton. So yes, everything is connected and conspiracy theories are not totally farfetched.
Clifford Irving somehow wanted to stick it to The Man (which is why you kind of root for him, duping all those greedy assholes at the publishing house), and found out that in this country that is totally impossible. The Man is always in control, always in power and He only looks out for Himself.