“Kill Your Darlings” (2013)
Recently, a slew of films have been exploring the Beat Generation, and it’s driving force it’s writers. Last year was “On The Road” (2012) which was based on the legendary Jack Kerouac book. This year at the Austin Film Festival I saw “Big Sur” (2013), which is about Jack Kerouac, played by Jean-Marc Barr, in his later life, 15 years after “On The Road” was released and how he is coping with the fame that came with the book. Now we have “Kill Your Darlings,” which stars Daniel Radcliffe as the poet Alan Ginsberg, Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac and Ben Foster as the eccentric writer, William S. Burroughs.
This movie takes place in 1944 New York as Allen Ginsberg has enrolled in Columbia University to become a poet like his father. Ginsberg is conflicted about going away to school as his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is mentally unbalanced and it seems that only Allen can control and comfort her. At his father’s (David Cross) insistence, Allen decides to go to college and meets Lucien (Dane DeHaan) a charismatic boy who is the ringleader for a gang of young men who want to change the world of writing. Lucien drags Allen to a party where he meets William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and the party’s host, a friend of Lucien named David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). Lucien decides that Allen is perfect to join his band of misfits, which includes a former football player and would be writer Jack Kerouac. So begins the origins of the “Beat Generation”. Lucien is the idea man of the gang, the one that comes up with the plans for this new writing movement, which he calls “The New Vision”. Lucien, who seems to be all show because he isn’t a writer at all. In fact, David writes all his papers for college. There is something more to the relationship between David and Lucien as they seem to be almost rivals instead of friends, and we sense that this volatile friendship may end badly.
As Allen deals more with Lucian, he becomes under his spell and starts having feelings for him. Allen becomes so enamored with Lucian that he dreams of making a move on him, something he clearly has never acted on before. Lucien’s influence on Allen grows as the film progresses as Allen becomes more and more in love with Lucien and the ideas that he continually speaks about.
This film centers around Allen and Lucian’s complex relationship and Radcliffe does a fascinating turn as Ginsberg. At times, Radcliffe portrays Allen as a love sick puppy, willing to do just about anything to get the attention of Lucien, but at other times, we see that Allen does have a backbone as he stands up to professors who are stuck in the 19th century way of writing poetry. DeHaan is equally fascinating as the mesmerizing Lucien. He plays Lucien as a man who can easily win over anybody by just using his words and his charisma. There is great chemistry between Radcliffe and DeHaan, each showing the building attraction that they began feeling for each other. Ben Foster also stands out in this cast as the always weird William Burroughs, playing him as a man hell bent on trying every known narcotic as a way to expand his mind. Michael C. Hall as David is perfectly cast as the blustery and sometimes creepy older man who has a thing for the much younger Lucian.
The film moves at a fast pace under the direction of John Krokidas as the film doesn’t have the look or feel of a first time director. The film, through music and cinematography, captures the time when the world was at war, and it’s younger generation was looking for new ways to express themselves. All in all, the film is a fascinating look at the origins of a writing style that influenced not just America but the world. Just a bit of warning to the fans of Daniel Radcliffe’s “Harry Potter” series, the film deals with very adult issues such as drug addiction and contains a very graphic sex scene.
My Rating: Full Price