Wednesday, November 27
REVIEW: Kill Your Darlings
Directed by John Krokidas
2013 Biographical Drama
1 hour and 44 minutes
From Sony Pictures Classics
Michael C. Hall
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Here we go with the third film I've reviewed this year on the Beat Generation. The first two, On the Road and Big Sur, were concerned more with Jack Kerouac. While his character is featured in this film as well, it is more about his pals Allen Ginsburg and Lucien Carr, who along with William Burroughs, were part of those responsible for starting the Beats.
The centerpiece of the story is a murder, one that was apparently rather hushed up for some time. It opens with a young Ginsberg (long before he became a famous poet although he was dabbling in it) at home with his teacher-poet father and mentally unstable mother while awaiting notification of acceptance from Columbia University.
Once in his dorm, he hears classical music floating in from another room and when he goes to check it out, he runs into Lucien Carr, a brilliant, troubled, self-destructive young man with whom he is immediately smitten.
At the same time we are favored with the quirky presences of Burroughs and Kerouac and the start of the anti-conformist youth movement that would one day be celebrated in Kerouac's Beat bible, On the Road, Ginsberg's Howl and Burroughs' Naked Lunch. We glean their early forays into spontaneous creativity, experiments with drugs, legendary drinking, pranks, sexual adventures and the rejection of materialism and academics. Their bohemian lifestyles would give birth to the hippie movement of the 1960s.
Carr was actively pursued sexually by an older man named David Kammerer. Today it would be called stalking. The two likely had sex at one time but now Carr is no longer interested. The same could not be said for his coupling with Ginsberg. Carr would go to a long marriage and have three kids and outlive all of his beat pals but not before a murder would shake up a group that wasn't easily shaken.
Carr would use the honor killing defense, still used in various cultures around the world. In his case, he would receive a lower sentence if he claimed, as a straight man, that he was attacked by a gay man. If he admitted to being gay, then the honor killing status would not apply and he would receive whatever sentence was appropriate in New York at that time (1944).
Bravo to new writer-director John Krokidas for fashioning a stylish screenplay that thrummed with electricity and for keeping the story moving and true to its real-life characters and their times. He guided his large cast to near-perfect emoting. Particularly good were the four leads. Radcliffe has often said he wants to remake his image and while he's been doing that, this film should garner a whole new appreciation for the Harry Potter actor. I first saw DeHaan in Lawless and found him impressive but this is certainly a breakout performance. He and Radcliffe have a wonderful chemistry together. Hall is emotionally impressive as Kammerer and Huston renders a damned good Kerouac.
The title likely refers to something William Faulkner once wrote... you must kill all your darlings. It was apparently his way of telling other writers to not rely on familiar things they always relied on. Regardless, the title is probably a poor choice. I don't see it as causing great attendance.
Too bad too. It's a good art house film but then I am thrilled at another look at those early practitioners of the Beat movement, writers in general and just about anything with a gay theme. Be warned or lured by some gay sex scenes.
Review of Dallas Buyers Club