Kill Your Darlings
Though the film contains some very good performances, my overall reaction was captured long ago by the famous words of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954), and I paraphrase, “It coulda been a contender.”;
It’s always been a bit of an intellectual embarrassment, but I’ve never been able to grasp the significance of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Yes, I know that Ginsberg is a famous poet, Kerouac attained immortality with his treatise “On the Road” and Burroughs hit the big time with “The Naked Lunch”.
As a counterculture lad of the 1960’s, I really should identify with the above talented trio. Regardless, while I recognize their talent, I fight to find their meaning to this day. They simply appear to be celebrities best known for being celebrities.
Director Jack Krokidas’ Kill Your Darlings finds its principal strengths from a bevy of talented actors. To begin with, Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter to the rest of you, plays a young Allen Ginsberg to great effect. It was 1943, and he reluctantly agreed to enter Columbia University knowing that he was leaving a mentally troubled mother at home. His father might have been a great poet in his own right, but he was hardly a great husband.
Upon entering Columbia, Ginsberg soon meets a group of iconoclastic characters, which included Burroughs and Kerouac. The latter two are also played with great passion by Ben Foster and Jack Huston. In effect, questioning college students are introduced to a country consumed by World War II.
The film centers on the relationship between Ginsberg and Lucien Carr, an emotionally troubled young student challenging everything and anything. Dane DeHaan has been deservedly praised for his role as the young Mr. Carr, a bisexual who rejects conventional wisdom in the most flamboyant manner. Both he and Mr. Radcliffe, romantically involved, play incredibly smart people, drinking heavily with the help of available controlled substances, and normal is a word that they simply don’t understand.
The title of the film refers to a haunting relationship between Carr and David Kammerer, an older thespian who has been in romantic pursuit of him for years. Played by the accomplished Michael C. Hall, the poor fool may be a darling, but you know that the film will not end comfortably.
Again, Radcliffe and company have the courage to recreate the twisted youth of those who are credited with founding the Beat Generation. Though their performances are frequently captivating, you couldn’t help but lament that a very good movie was lurking somewhere off the screen.
If you overcome your reluctance and hunt this film down, at least be prepared to be captured by some of the music. There is an African-American female singer (Dawn Newman) performing some knockout jazz during a short moment in a nightclub where the boys are carousing, and she is flat-out terrific.
What a pity that I can’t say the same about the film.