Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Directed by John Krokidas
Written by John Krokidas & Austin Bunn
Now this is a movie I was really excited to see because I love the writers of the beat generation and have studied them extensively. I actually started my thesis with the topic or question of did drugs influence the creativity of the beat writers or were they naturally already creative people? I focused on William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg and a bit of Jack Kerouac because I had to narrow my search down, but anyways I spent a whole year researching this and devoting all my time into it, so needless to say I thought this movie would be right up my alley. I feel weird sometimes divulging personal info like that, but I am trying to open myself up more because I know I always like to read others personal anecdotes.
With that said, I came into this movie with high expectations. Kill Your Darlings marks John Krokidas directorial and writing debut and it is obvious that he has potential, but I believe this movie ultimately missed the mark.
The film centers on a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) who is freshly admitted to Columbia University. Upon his arrival he sets himself apart in the classroom by his distinct knowledge and contradictory viewpoints. There he meets Lucian Carr (Dane DeHaan), a charismatic guy with bravado, wit and a certain way about him that draws people towards him. He is like a sexy little magnet with blonde hair and blue eyes that make both men and women just follow his every word.
The two become instantaneous friends and Carr pushes Ginsberg to not only open his mind with poetry, but to push the envelope when it comes to thinking about the old ways of literature and writing. At the club they frequent they collaborate with William Burroughs (Ben Foster) who is in on Carr’s “New Vision” writing group and a partner in crime when it comes to taking drugs.
Carr declares to them that they will write rebelliously, forgo tradition and poetic pentameter and rhyme and to free their minds from those literary constraints. This he calls, the “new vision,” and he can be credited for starting the beat revolution in a sense with his ideology.
Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) appears for a short period, as he was in his formative years of being a sailor and a meandering man.
Now the whole story really is about Ginsberg and Carr’s relationship, but the second story at play is Carr’s strange, pseudo love affair with professor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). He was obsessed with Carr and would write his papers and was relentless in his pursuits of him.
Carr grows weary of the relationship and stabs him in what he claims was in self defense. I am not really giving anything way since this is on the poster and cover of the movie and I as I mentioned is a sub-plot and even an afterthought of the entire movie.
What I liked about the movie is that it is highly stylized and looks perfect as a replica of 1944, there is even a sepia tone to the entire film which resembles the clothes and dreariness of that time.
I also enjoyed all the literary references, there are not many movies that mention Beowulf and William Butler Yates, so for us book people out there, we had some literary boners going on.
Dane DeHaan is fabulous in the movie, there is something electric and mysterious about this actor and when he is on screen I focus all my energy on watching him. Daniel Radcliffe also did well and it was nice to see him show us how he has refined his acting chops.
The story in the movie fell flat, it started with a bang and an interesting narrative and half way through the film the intent of the movie started to fade away. It was as if the writers were trying to cram in as much literary references and famous icons into the film as possible. I felt at times I was getting bored, yawning, and day dreaming and forgetting I was even watching a movie. The story was disjointed and all over the place, but I find that movies that focus on these iconic writers tend to have a hard time really popping on screen.
There was something deep and intense about their writing, it was on a creative note that at times is even hard to understand and decipher and to try to put these ideas into a movie is very difficult. This movie came off as pretentious and full of narrative fluff. The only movie that has conveyed the feeling of the beatnik era to me is Inside Llewyn Davis, despite it not being about them at all, it truly gave me the sense of what these writers faced and how they felt.
If I had to give this movie some type of a rating, I would say this is the type of movie you watch when you are on your couch bored as hell and would like to hear some background dialogue that will make you feel smart.