Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings
Positive: 2 out of 2
Mixed: 0 out of 2
Negative: 0 out of 2
Oct 17, 2013At 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 »
Dec 8, 2013It’s no surprise that some of the most effective works of the Beatnik generation were born in the scuzzy halls of jazz bars; soaked with whiskskey induced grammar, intoxicated with muddled philosophies, their pages bathed in the permanent smell of tobacco. Much like the work of Lewis Carroll, drugs, alcohol, and culture were catalysts towards the ideology of destroying the old and building the new. The movement itself was a rousing feat with great cultural ramifications. The film itself is a work that sometimes trades in the grainy for flashy; rupturing not only the pattern that the authors were trying to break, but the whole tone of the film as well.
If I pitched you a story about the Beat generation led by Harry Potter, the new Harry Osborne, a guy from X-Men and the guy from Boardwalk Empire with half his face missing, I’m sure the reaction would be pretty great. Unfortunately for audiences, the subject matter submits to a truly unauthentic, lack lustre festival formula and abandons creativeness and a unique vision for a familiar narrative that disregards great historical figures, making them caricatures within a lame murder/mystery genre film.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Allen Ginsberg, one of the most famous and recognizable poets in the American culture. Radcliffe continues to shed his ‘Hogwarts alumni’ image by taking risky, unconventional and edgy roles that all share in their seemingly controversial nature. Upon his acceptance and arrival into Columbia University, Ginsberg is in search of something offbeat. Ironically enough, Ginsberg is lured into the residency of Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), an intoxicated sociopath with an obsession for self-destruction, always curious for the taste of the complicated and unexplainable.
Together, Carr and Ginsberg start a small revolution in their heads, but without so many words. With the help of an unlimited supply of cannabis and some Johnny Walker, the two eventually enlist of the help of William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and a young Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and begin their uprising. Through constant disruptions by the reputation and prestige Columbia University holds so true and dear to its heart, the constantly stoned literary bandits are engulfed into a world of lovers, obsession and murder, intent on revolutionizing literature.
Kill Your Darlings starts bold and overwhelming, demanding utmost attention. Unfortunately, once attention is given, the film cannot hold its grip and deliver a rousing, culturally relevant story about some of the most influential figures in contemporary literature in the last century. Blending the lines of drug induced fantasy and reality, Kill Your Darlings is a story of breaking the formulaic path, distrusting all conventional and predictable beats of rhyme and meter, but sadly becomes a textbook festival entry with a forgettable conclusion.
The term to ‘kill your darlings’ is one that suggests destroying all the conventions and comforts of the mundane, reinventing yourself, and throwing inhibition to the wind and finding creativity will inspire instances of utter uniqueness. Kill Your Darlings, although sometimes confident, is an obsessive and complicated re-telling of enigmatic characters placed in a deceitful and overdramatized tragedy of murder. With the rich historical and cultural imprint of these feisty literary pioneers, so much of the busy murder antics is clearly overshadowing the brilliant opportunity to showcase the likes of Carr, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac.
Mixing the potential monologue moments of Weir‘s 1989 Dead Poets Society with the tone and ambiance of Salle‘s 2004 masterpiece The Motorcycle Diaries, Kill Your Darlings becomes a self-inflicted suicide of a film with a tantalizing and promising narrative. Don’t get me wrong, the performances are top notch; DeHaan is magnificent as Carr and Radcliffe is radiant as Ginsberg. However, while most of the top-billed cast is ravishing, and supporting cast is spot on, the film feels drowned in the water with average narrative cliches weighing it down.
While the antics of the underbelly of the New York Greenwich Village scene have been explored, battered, bruised and forever changed by the provocative and decadent Beat Movement, Kill Your Darlings remains a tame snippet of the life of these amazing authors and thinkers. Destined to be an example of a complicated festival biography attempt, the film will positively spark deep discussion. Kill Your Darlings repeats the initial reaction to Carr’s response to Ginsberg’s complicated life, “Perfect. I love complicated.” Hopefully next time, an autobiographical cinematic take on the origins of the Beat Generation will be less gimmicky and more focused on the howling affect these fascinating individuals had on the world of literature, art, and our contemporary culture as a whole.… Full Review »