KILL YOUR DARLINGS
Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) are budding writers and poets, breaking the rules at University as well as in life. Their friend Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) ignites passions and tensions, not least through his love hate relationship with David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), with whom he shares a dark incident in his past. The exuberance of youthful creative writing smashes into reality just before the end of World War II, leaving them all damaged on their way to fame as the bright lights of the beat generation. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Louise Keller:
Words, drugs and sex form the pulse to the literary revolution canvassed in John Krokidas's debut film, when The Beat Generation drums and murder is skewed on the menu. Daniel Radcliff is the Columbia University freshman protagonist Allen Ginsberg, who is seduced by the fearless, creative drive of Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and swept into an intellectual space where dare-devil attitudes defy conventions. In its depiction of the inner circle that includes poets Ginsberg, Carr, William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and adventurer Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), Kill Your Darlings follows Howl (2010) and On the Road (2012), delivering a glimpse of an avant-garde world pre World War II, when jazz was hot, ideas were hotter and rules were made to be broken. With its underbelly of dark themes, this is a disturbing and intriguing film with rich performances and whose characters are liberating in that they disregard the consequences - and pay the price.
There is some indelible imagery at the beginning of the film - a dying man, a heated exchange behind bars and a mentally unstable woman emotionally clinging to her son. These images form part of the backdrop as Allen Ginsberg (Radcliff) begins his studies at University exploring rhyme, meter and conceit to follow in the footsteps of his poet father (David Cross). Ginsberg's puritan ideals quickly dissolve, when he is stopped in his tracks by the outrageous antics of Lucien Carr, shocking the establishment. New words, new rhythms and new visions follow - 'the New Vision' is the name that Ginsberg, Carr and Burroughs adopt to describe the new wave of creativity they are generating. It is 'the perfect day' that they are seeking as they edge their way into drug abuse, sexual experimentation and pushing boundaries of the written word.
Radcliff's Ginsberg and DeHaan's Carr complement each other in every way in their push-pull relationship. Ginsberg is naturally conservative with a conscience, while Carr, who admits to being good at beginnings, is the risk-taker, ready to jump into the deep end at the slightest provocation. The physicality of the two actors accentuates their differences with Radcliff finding a depth we have not seen before onscreen and DeHaan, his striking facial features a strong part of the cinematic nature of the film. Both have a great presence.
The relationships between all the characters are labyrinthine as they weave their way around each other in this tumultuous journey of minds and emotions. The storytelling is at times obtuse and the more you know about the era, the more there is to get out of the film. Alternatively, the film could be a springboard of discovery about these literary greats, acting as a slit in the window that offers a glimpse into their unique worlds.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Very much a movie for the baby boomers and older, those who knew of and perhaps read some of the works of these young men, Kill Your Darlings is an often frustrating, irritating film, despite - or perhaps because of - its determination to be as off-beat as the beat generation of writers it portrays. Intentionally jagged and episodic, edited with nervous energy and opaque outcomes, the film relies for its impact on the fact that these were real people, writers and thinkers who challenged the traditions of their time.
The screenplay tracks their complex set of relationships, between each other as well as between some of the family members, and shows how out of synch they all were, in various ways. The title is a double entendre that we 'get' at the end.
The homosexuality and the drugs probably don't seem so shocking these days, but in the context of 1943/44, these were extremely subversive elements.
The cast is superb; each of the key characters is forged into their unique persona as passed down through their writings and contemporary stories. Daniel Radcliffe makes a vulnerable, nervy and intense Allen Ginsberg, somewhat of a catalyst in the story. Dane DeHaan is extraordinary as Lucien, a highly complex, manipulative and dangerous young man, always seeking the thrill of anything new.
Ben Foster pushes his characterisation of William Burroughs as far as he can before it topples into caricature, a strange mix of natty dresser and steel-hard intellect. Elizabeth Olsen is marvellous in the small but vita role of Jack's girl Edie, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is convincing as Ginsberg's mentally ill mother.
There are some great moments, some lively sexual scenes and lots of intellectual posing. But the film's self-consciousness tends to work against it dramatically, as if it were just a show.
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KILL YOUR DARLINGS (MA15+)
CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, David Cross, Kyra Sedgwick, Erin Drake, David Rasche
PRODUCER: Michael Benaroya, John Krokidas, Christine Vachon
DIRECTOR: John Krokidas
SCRIPT: John Krokidas, Austin Bunn
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Reed Morano
EDITOR: Brian A. Kates
MUSIC: Nico Muhly
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen H. Carter
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 5, 2013