Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 36
  2. Negative: 2 out of 36
  1. Reviewed by: Geoff Pevere
    Nov 7, 2013
    38
    It adds nothing to our understanding of "Howl," and the movie is exactly what the poem isn’t: ordinary.
  2. Reviewed by: Christy Lemire
    Oct 18, 2013
    38
    Kill Your Darlings presents a minor prelude to a major literary movement.
User Score
7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 34 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Oct 17, 2013
    6
    At the very least, Kill Your Darlings is a fairly ingenious idea for a movie. Taking a little-known murder case in the early lives of Ivy League undergrads Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac and using it to frame a tale of creative, sexual, and social awakening, John Krokidas’s film has ideas and ambition to spare. What could have easily become a Muppet Babies for the Beat set turns out to be, at least at first, a touching look at the intermingling of adolescent and literary passion in a world on edge. Somewhere in its conception, though, lie the seeds of its (partial) downfall. The film follows young, talented Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), a frustrated teen from Paterson, New Jersey, as he enters his freshman year at Columbia. There, he becomes captivated by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a charismatic bon vivant who likes to get up on tables and recite Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer from memory at the top of his lungs. “Lu,” as he’s called, introduces Ginsberg to wealthy Harvard scion and nonstop drug-experimenter Burroughs (Ben Foster, introduced in a bathtub clutching a mask feeding him nitrous oxide), as well as hunky, talented senior Kerouac (Jack Huston). Together, the four of them begin to breathlessly explore the creation of a new creative movement, to be called the New Vision, which will rejuvenate American literature and tear down the stuffy, hidebound morality and culture all around them. The nation might think it’s fighting fascism abroad, but these guys are convinced the real fascists are here at home, hiding in the ironclad poetic rules of meter and rhyme, and in the sexual mores governing society. “Let’s make the patients come out and play,” they proclaim. “We need new words, new rhythms!” What’s that you ask? Oh, right, the murder. While all this is happening, there’s also an older gentleman by the name of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who expresses a bit too much fondness for Lu. For all his sophistication, the man is clearly obsessed, pathetically, with this beautiful young boy. He also appears to have given Lu some of his bolder ideas, so the notion of said ideas now being shared with the likes of Ginsberg and Kerouac (all of whom Kammerer sees as potential romantic rivals) clearly drives him nuts. The film opens with Lu dropping Kammerer’s bleeding body into a river, so I’m not really spoiling anything when I say that the story builds up to the older man’s death. Is it a murder, or a blood sacrifice in the name of art? Is he the darling being killed, or is there something more symbolic going on here? The screenplay, written by Krokidas and Austin Bunn (and, full disclosure: I went to college with these guys), provokes a lot of questions about the nature of influence, of tradition and revival and death and rebirth. And, for a while, it juggles all of them fairly effectively, in part thanks to the uniformly excellent cast. As Ginsberg, Daniel Radcliffe has to do a lot of journeying: He’s our audience surrogate, but he also has to go from wide-eyed naïf to burgeoning visionary, hinting at the oddball, revolutionary figure he’d eventually become. It’s one of the film’s boldest ideas, actually, to take the perpetually alienating and uncompromising Ginsberg as our “in.” But it works: Watch his queasiness, the tremble in his face, as he opens his acceptance letter to Columbia. DeHaan, for his part, finally gets to smile in a movie sort of and you can see what it is that draws all these people to Lu. It’s a surprisingly tricky part a person who in real life would likely be insufferable, the kind of entitled who walks into a party, kisses the first girl he sees, and complains that she tastes “like imported sophistication and domestic cigarettes.” But the young actor lends him just enough torment; you sense genuine vulnerability lurking behind all that fey confidence. Krokidas is smart enough to let most of the film’s drama play out in close-ups and to get out of his actors’ way. But he also offers up stylized montages, perhaps in an effort to convey the artistic revolution being cooked up: Some scenes play out (briefly) in reverse; background action stops; the action slows down. But it’s a very old-fashioned version of “style” and “experimentation” lacking the looseness, the hypnotic unpredictability of the Beats. Even a couple of utterly conventional contemporary pop songs rear their heads. (One of them, TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me,” has already been overused in movies including Joseph Kahn’s Detention, a film which, for all its flaws, is probably closer in experimental spirit to the Beats than anything in Kill Your Darlings.) Narratively, Kill Your Darlings can’t quite keep all its balls in the air, and by the end all these connections the film attempts to forge between the murder, the war, gay sex, culture, etc. begin to feel more like a thesis than a human drama. And the canned stylization does the subject no favors, either. Full Review »
  2. Aug 16, 2014
    7
    A dazzling character piece centres around a brutal murder case which implicates several future literature big shots of the beat generation, Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) is the freshman of Columbia University, he encounters a fellow student Lucien Carr (DeHaan), who brings him into a world of unorthodoxy and defiance against the rules and conformism, and he also meets the young Jack Kerouac (Huston) and William Burroughs (Foster). But Lucien’s personal imbroglio with his fervent lover David Kammerer (C. Hall), a professor-turned-janitor, makes everything complicated, and eventually the real-life event changes their life path forever.

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  3. Jul 6, 2014
    4
    Occasionally I come across a movie that I don't like, but not because it's a bad film. Somethings are not for everyone, but I can still appreciate the terrific performances and unique storyline of Kill Your Darlings. This film follows the early lives, and some previously untold stories, of the 1940's Beat Generation. People like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, & William S. Burroughs are featured prominently in this film, and show what some of America's greatest writers were like when they were mere college students. The story centers mainly around Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who was better than any of them, and could have also been one of the greats, if it wasn't for an event that changed his life forever. The story is a gripping drama, telling a true, untold story from the 1940's, so what's not to like? There was a lot of focus on Philosophy, Art, Poetry and Love. There are some people that really that stuff up, but it just really wasn't for me. DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe were both terrific, but I'll always have a problem seeing Radcliffe playing anyone except for Harry Potter, and when Radcliffe was in a rather graphic sex scene, I admit I had to avert my eyes. The bottom line is that Kill Your Darlings isn't a bad film, but it's very philosophic and somewhat slow moving. I can see how some people are going to absolutely love it, but I just found it slow and a bit too artistic for my liking. Full Review »