My wife & I rented the movie The Hoax, starring Richard Gere, last week. It's about author Clifford Irving and his attempt in 1971-72 to write a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes and pass it off as genuine. I thought the movie was extremely interesting, very well acted, and effective at recreating the feel of the early '70s. Alfred Molina, who plays Irving's cohort Richard Suskind, was especially good at showing Suskind's sad victimization by Irving.
The story itself was fascinating. While I remember the whole mystique about Howard Hughes quite well, I was not familiar with Irving and the fake autobiography. I was 18 years old when the book was published by McGraw-Hill. It's amazing that Irving got as far as he did with it, fooling the publishing world with forged letters from Hughes and elaborate stories of his interviews with the strange billionaire.
From a spiritual perspective, The Hoax gives a very clear depiction of the blinding, enticing power of sin. It shows the truth of Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" While Irving's sin was a lot more "out there" than ours, it was no different in kind from our more subtle forms of lying, using people for our own advantage, manipulating circumstances to get out of trouble, blame-shifting, and violating our promises.
According to the movie, Irving needed money and he was plagued by a guilty conscience. So rather than repent and look to God for mercy, he tacked on the "fig leaves" of a grand plot to write a best-selling novel and pass it off as an autobiography of an eccentric figure. He thought, "If I can just become rich and famous, people will like me, forgive me, and validate my existence." I can think of plenty of times when, rather than face the truth, confess my sin, and deal with it head-on, I either lied my way out of it or found something to distract my attention away from my pain. The Hoax shows very convincingly that "your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23), and that persistent sin only leaves in its wake broken lives and hearts.