Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Kill Your DarlingsThings aren’t great at home: his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is suffering from schizophrenia and his father (David Cross) is determined that she be incarcerated, yet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) decides that the time has come to enroll at university. While at the library, Lucian Carr (Dane DeHaan) interrupts his induction by mounting one of the tables and reciting from a restricted text. Ginsberg befriends Carr and is introduced to his circle of friends, comprising William Burroughs (Ben Foster), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and David Kammerer (William C. Hall), an ex lover who now writes Carr’s essays for him. Seduced by their talk of revolution (as well as Carr personally), Ginsberg agrees to help spearhead a new movement in American poetry.

While movies about authors, filmmakers and musicians are a relatively common sight in cinemas, often marketed to mainstream audiences and screened at multiplex venues, films focusing on the lives and times of poets are significantly less so. Outside of the occasional film about Edgar Allan Poe (most recently seen in The Raven) and oddball offerings such as The Libertine, the majority of films about poets do seem to focus overwhelmingly on the beat generation.

Having starred in Howl and cropped up most recently in On The Road, Allen Ginsberg is once again given the movie treatment in Kill Your Darlings, this time portrayed by none other than The Boy Who Lived himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Chronicling the beat poet’s earlier years, from his enrollment at Columbia University to his infatuation with fellow revolutionary Lucian Carr, John Krokidas’ debut overcame a troubled production to arrive on the 2013 festival circuit with appearances at Sundance and Toronto.

Radcliffe fares surprisingly well in the leading role, period clothing and a convincing American drawl helping to sell his more boyish take on Ginsberg. It’s only when he laughs that the illusion is shattered, and you begin to notice that the round glasses look uncannily like those worn by one Harry Potter. Dane DeHaan and Michael C. Hall are even more impressive, the former exuding waifish charm while the latter plays an obsessed and deluded ex who’s still helplessly under Carr’s spell. None can compete with Foster, however, who is so effective as William Burroughs that you don’t ever recognise it is him.

Although well acted and thematically strong, Kill Your Darlings is unlikely to attract audiences otherwise uninterested in the exploits of an esoteric figure from America’s literary past. Krokidas does at least attempt to widen the film’s appeal, dedicating the last act of his film to the murder of David Kammerer, but even so, the first hour of the movie is still a turgid and rather tedious exploration of what is essentially a specialty subject. This became painfully clear in the press leading up to the film’s release, as savvy editors — apparently more mindful of their audience’s interests — instead chose to focus on a short-lived snog between Radcliffe and DeHaan that the cast were clearly sick of talking about.

Kill Your Darlings is by no means without merit, but even as you admire the performances and appreciate the set decoration it is difficult to connect with the characters discussing Yeats onscreen. At one point Ginsberg is asked by his lecturer why he doesn’t take his fighting spirit to Germany where it might be better channeled into World War II, and as nice as typewriters and libraries are you can’t help but push him for an answer. “Well?”




About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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