Horns and Halos Movie Review

As an author and small publisher myself, Horns and Halos resonated with me right from the start.

It's the story of James Hatfield, the author of a book called Fortunate Son, a biography (the first) of pre-presidential George W. Bush. Meant to be a quickie "clip job," written by quoting sources secondhand through previously published articles on Bush, Hatfield ended up turning in something a little different. The biggest switch: An afterword that alleged Bush was a former cocaine user.

But Hatfield appears to have semi-fabricated other details along the way, inventing quotes, and wildly exaggerating on stories from Bush's past. Within days of its publication by St. Martin's Press, the book was pulled from shelves and "burned" -- in order to head off lawsuits and political pressure. The book then ended up in the hands of Soft Skull Press, an outfit run from a dangerous-looking Manhattan basement by a mohawk-sprouted Sander Hicks, who also works as the building janitor in exchange for the space.

Hicks reprints the book, despite the fact that certain details about Hatfield have now surfaced: Hatfield is a convicted felon who did five years in prison for attempted murder! It gets even juicier, as Hicks and Hatfield try to get gunshy bookstores to carry the book, Soft Skull winds up deep in debt, Hatfield becomes a bit of a target among the mass media, and the lawsuits fly.

It'd be a great piece of fiction, but it happens to all be true. Documentarians Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley tell the story with exceptional style on a low budget, maintaining appropriate neutrality while portraying Hatfield as a latter-day Job, attacked on all sides and deeply resentful that he ever wrote the book in the first place. Characters from both sides of the debate -- is Hatfield a fraud or a hero? -- are interviewed and given equal time. There's also a bit of a surprise ending, which I won't ruin here. You'll want to see it for yourself. I thought I'd lose interest, but Halos kept my eyes glued until the bitter end.

While Halos might have better handled some of its revelations (revealing too much of the story through title cards), it's a forgivable sin. For anyone interested in Bush's ascent to the presidency, this is an excellent companion piece to Journeys with George.

But where are the horns?


Comments

Horns and Halos Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: NR, 2002

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