Two desperate men arguing through prison bars. Kill Your Darlings imprinted in bold white letters over the characters. When the film opens, immediately you know you’re in for a tense and shocking drama, yet Kill Your Darlings is so much more.
This biopic of the relationship between a young and naive Allen Ginsberg (David Radcliffe), a pioneer of the Beat Generation of writers, and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) is intimately and cleverly drawn. It follows a young Ginsberg escaping from his mild father and mentally ill mother to join Columbia University in the middle of World War II. It’s there that he meets Carr, a creative, captivating rule-breaker who pulls Ginsberg in to his “wonderland” of new writers and thinkers. The film then shows the creation of the Beat Generation as the bonds between Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), Carr and Ginsberg form, and how they pioneered a new vision of how poetry should be written and how life should be lived. The mysterious and clearly dangerous presence of Carr’s so-called friend, Professor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) gives the film its dark edge and keeps the audience slightly uneasy and nervous throughout the movie.
The result of this plot structure is a clever, interesting and emotional look at a largely unknown story of one of America’s most important literary movements. Director John Krokidas and scriptwriter AustinBunn have created a drama that expertly balances the personal aspects of the story and the universally relatable emotional difficulties. As a current student, it is easy to relate to the difficulties of having to work out your identity and beliefs when you are set free from home, and when this is put in the context of the limited rights and freedoms of Ginsberg’s time it is easy to feel really sympathy for his experience. This film deserves great applause for shedding light on a story about such important figures with this level of sympathy and creativity.
But what truly makes this film a success is the cast. Every role is played expertly and so convincingly that the moments of high drama are engaging rather than ridiculous, and moments of vulnerability are truly heartbreaking. DeHaan plays Carr extraordinarily well, presenting his complex and intriguing character in such a way that you are as drawn in as Ginsberg. Radcliffe, meanwhile, is highly believable in his role. You sympathize with his excitement and hopefulness when he begins college life and his chemistry with DeHaan is so persuasive that you can’t help but be taken in. Radcliffe certainly deserves some kudos for proving his merit as an actor and he’s successfully moved beyond his Harry Potter days — his glasses are the only similarity — and his commendable acting deserves to be judged on its own merits.
This film really shines because of how well the cast works together — you can see the passions and tensions in the relationships without it always being directly thrown in your face. As a result, you are taken on a whirlwind journey reflecting their own experience, at times intimately drawn into their ideas and relationships in a way you may not have been in the recent adaptation of On The Road, at other times disgusted and repelled by their actions and treatment of one another. It is a shame, however, that the female roles are not more developed. The short scenes featuring Elizabeth Olsen, who playsKerouac’s girlfriend Edie Parkers, are decent, but leave you feeling that there’s a story there which you’re not permitted to see or fully understand, and it’s a waste of Olsen’s proven talent. Nevertheless, the cast is an exceptionally strong one, and really gives the film its power.
Biographical dramas are always vulnerable to attack for being factually inaccurate, but in this case I think the film can be viewed as nothing but a success. The plot, graphics and cast all work amazingly well together to create an exciting and emotional film that should not be missed.