Director: John Krokidas
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen
Duration: 103 mins
Release Date: 5 December, 2013
Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg, a bookish wannabe poet from an uptight and fractured home, who we meet as a freshman at Colombia University. It’s there he meets Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a dangerous and charismatic student whose intermittent affections the blossoming Ginsberg finds intoxicating. Carr has a mysterious attaché in David Kammerer (Michael C Hall), an older gentleman who he coyly and masterfully plays as his whims dictate. Ginsberg and Carr fall in with William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) as they begin to explore drugs, sex and decadence that are firmly taboo in 1944 New York. Things get out of hand, as they tend to do in such hedonistic times, and a murder forces these men to question themselves, their loyalties and their relationships.
Although the setting for Kill Your Darlings is a beautiful re-creation of the ’40s, director John Krokidas shoots with no apologies to period – the action jumps, rewinds, fast-forwards and blurs to deepen the audience’s connection to the story. The soundtrack, too, is anachronistic, weaving machine-made beats through the chilly, de-saturated picture to wonderful effect.
At its core, the tale is one of morality. As the world emerges from its second brutal war in less than 30 years, the United States also emerges from revolutionary childhood as a superpower essentially in charge of a broken world. In doing so, it must confront its own demons and leave behind a Victorian sense of modesty and the “values” that defined a homogenous and deeply inequitable society. 1944 will see the first seeds of civil rights, the sexual revolution and the transformation of the USSR into a mortal enemy, and we can see the nascent rumbles of these weaved through the film.
Kill Your Darlings channels this world and its inherent tensions marvellously through the leads. A sense of excitement at possibility pervades the film, and Radcliffe portrays Ginsberg’s own series of awakenings to thrilling effect. There is hope, there is recklessness, and there is the robust and destructive kind of growth that defines late adolescence. The chemistry between Radcliffe and DeHaan is particularly electric; DeHaan is brilliant as a perfect, dangerous and addictive personality most people will recognise from some dark corner of their own formative years.
I would particularly urge people interested in queer history and cinema to see this film. Probable historical accuracy aside, the story as presented is a fascinating and moving insight into the moral climate before the Stonewall riots, and the damage wrought by the suppression of desire.
Ginsberg put forward some extremely problematic views on sexuality, especially regarding minors, over the course of his life, but Kill Your Darlings does not seek to lionise the poet, nor overtly link the trauma of his youth to these views. We see a flawed and struggling young man railing against an uncaring society, for better or worse, and it fascinating to watch.
– Will McRostie
Review courtesy of InDaily
Rotten Tomatoes says: 77% – “Bolstered by the tremendous chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, Kill Your Darlings casts a vivid spotlight on an early chapter in the story of the Beat Generation.”
The New York Times says: “Kill Your Darlings is at once a lurid true-crime chronicle and a coming-out story. Its vision of the past is stereoscopic, affirming Allen’s erotic self-discovery even as it explores the shadows of the closet where he and his friends must dwell.”
The Guardian says: “Radcliffe gives a forthright and candid performance as Ginsberg, very plausibly representing his idealism and sexual naivety. He is evolving into a formidable and potent screen presence.”
Entertainment Weekly says: “The rare art biopic that sees the dark roots of creativity…Radcliffe, in a superb performance, captures Ginsberg’s playfully stern poetic passion, Ben Foster nails the aristocratic young rotter William Burroughs, and DeHaan is inspired as a bohemian-turned-killer.”
Watch it: If you’re a literature lover, or if you want to see Harry Potter in a completely different role.