Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Kill Your Darlings is based on a true story about events that occurred when Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) was a freshman at Columbia University. That is where he met Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), and through him, William Burroughs (Ben Foster), David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). They belonged to the Beat Generation and saw themselves as having a “new vision”, in which they rejected conventional values and materialism, thought drugs held important insights and information, and were drawn to Eastern philosophies and religion. This is a story of the beginnings of their relationships when they were in college.
When the film opens, Ginsberg is living at home with his father (David Cross), a poet, and his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is emotionally disturbed. Fortunately, his father recognizes the dilemma the boy has, and encourages him to pursue his dreams and separate from his clinging mother. Allen is thrilled to be admitted to Columbia, and arrives there as a very green freshman. He soon meets Lucien, who recognizes his gifts of writing and creativity, and quickly introduces him to his friends. Ginsberg is immediately attracted to Lucien for his daring and outspokenness, although he does not immediately recognize that these are deep elements in his own personality.
The story proceeds with the friends acting out and “doing their thing”, which seems a bit stale now, from this point in time. We have seen a lot of political activism, and drug and sexual experimentation, so we are no longer like Ginsberg, just discovering. However, about halfway through the film, we hear about the major intrigue of this story, which culminates in Lucien possibly going to be held accountable for his acting out. The art of the film—and the best part—is that we are presented with three scenarios for the ending, when Ginsberg is placed in a huge ethical/moral dilemma. The film, co-written and directed by John Krokidos, is brilliantly done from the beginning, but this last part makes the film a must-see. There have been two more films this year about the beat generation (On the Road and Big Sur), but I think this one is by far the most enlightening and artistic.
With this role, Radcliffe has made a firm transition from the Harry Potter reputation he has held for so long. His evolvement during the film from naïveté to activist to writer with a conscience comes through convincingly. Dane DeHaan is mesmerizing in his characterization of Lucien, the provocateur and sexually troubled classmate of Allen’s. Ben Foster and Michael C. Hall round out the major characters with their fine performances.
Kill Your Darlings is difficult to watch at times because of the destructiveness of the group and their drug use, but stick with it; the ending is really fine.
By: Donna R. Copeland
DANIEL RADCLIFFE DANE DEHAAN MICHAEL C. HALL
KILL YOUR DARLINGS
The only real thing being killed here (besides one of the characters in the film) is my patience with these characters that filmmakers have become obsessed with putting on screen. Last year it was On the Road, last month it was Big Sur and now yet again we dive into the dark, devious, promiscuous and supposedly genius minds of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Carr. Thankfully, this story takes place a bit earlier and actually has a valid and interesting plot with Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe in a very challenging role. The entire cast, including Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan, are well assembled, but the story just lands too heavy with all the overkill material out there right now.
Upon arriving at Columbia University in 1943, Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) was eager to develop his brilliance. He was open to new experiences because he hadn’t had any living with his poetic father and mentally debilitating mother (Leigh). His first encounter with Lucien Carr (DeHaan) was magnetic, and they became friends almost instantly. The drinking, the parties and the philosophy gave way to an idea they called ‘The New Vision’, where they destroyed books and tried to debunk the conservative system. Carr was a mixed bag, however, winning Ginsberg's affections then pushing him away. “You were ordinary like every other freshman and I made you extraordinary”.
Obviously based on a true story and the many writings both left behind, Kill Your Darlings (a double entendre about leaving one's baggage at the door in order to write more clearly) is also a story about murder and the loss of innocence. They wanted to start a literary revolution without writing a word, but it was Ginsberg who was writing a lot, trying to figure out his feelings, especially those he felt for Carr. Radcliffe plays this role in a way we seem to understand, or at least empathize with his character's confusion and easy derailment. DeHaan has ripped a page from the 1990’s version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career and his looks for his performance.
The closer the film comes to calling out these characters from what they truly were is when it becomes more interesting. The first half of the film is filled with the exact type of creative delusion that On the Road had: saying a lot, but meaning nothing. Radcliffe, like with Potter, is able to connect with the audience in many ways without saying anything. He works his eyes and body language to convey more than his dialogue. If this film had been made without the two prior films already soaking up all the air in the room, I might have enjoyed it more. But you can only have the same meal so often until you get tired of it. Final Thought – Radcliffe excels in overused material.
By: Dustin Chase