Director: John Krokidas
Writers: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, Elizabeth Olsen, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Synopsis: Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) meets the fiery Lucien Carr (DeHaan) at university and the two embark on recalibrating the poetic form, in what will become known as the “Beat movement”.
Much like the contemporary hipster clique, the Beat poets were unconventional and determined to expand the parameters of art. Watching Kill Your Darlings is often farcical in representing Ginsberg, Carr, Burroughs and Kerouac – gods of literature but now appearing like hilarious caricatures of what we deem “hipsterish”.
This films continues the post-Harry Potter career of Radcliffe who is on top form, somewhat overshadowed by the larger-than-life characters surrounding him. Dane DeHaan, shaping up to be one of the 21st Century’s finest young actors, is the figure Radcliffe loses out to the most. DeHaan is energetic, striking and pivotal to the plot. DeHaan’s Carr is also the most irritating part of Kill Your Darlings – an unstoppable, loud eccentric, too coarse and unruly to be well and truly liked. In two ways it’s a blessing a curse that DeHaan embodies this so well. It’s a terrific performance but a performance you get sick of.
It’s a film largely centred on the cast and characters, more so than plot. Each person has intricate links to another – Carr the heart of it all. Jack Huston and Ben Foster as Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, respectively, share many moments of the narrative, bringing to light this star-studded inner circle of writers. They too may have gone on to create quintessential work, yet there is little to take from Kill Your Darlings that presents them with any sort of pride. Each had their effect on Ginsberg and helped bring his voice to the millions – something we cannot fault – though judging from John Krokidas’s film, it’s not a story that generates much love for their behaviour.
It is difficult to not jazz up the form and tone of a beat biopic, with the movement being so influenced by unkempt rhythm. However, some have managed it better (Howl, whilst nothing special, had an interesting design) and Kill Your Darlings often feels tawdry. The film falls flat in a time where the beat movement seems relevant again – we can look to new artists and the streets of Soho (New York and London), Brick Lane, and Greenwich, New York to see this all happening in one way or another. It’s nothing insightful or poignant; a mere portrait of a few nonconformists.