Starring: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter series), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Ben Foster (The Mechanic), Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Director: John Krokidas
Writers: John Krokidas & Austin Bunn
Runtime: 1 hour 44 minutes
Release Date: 16 October (US), 6 December (UK)
Despite my passion for writing, I am not one to partake in poetry often. I couldn’t tell you anything about the works of Allen Ginsberg or any other members of the Beat Generation. I have nothing against the form, but it just something I’m not particularly interested. As such, Kill Your Darlings was not a film I saw because I was particularly interested in the subject matter. But if you do take a chance on this picture, I’m sure may find yourself caught up in what it has to say.
Much like poetry, Kill Your Darlings has a story to tell but it is not at the forefront of its goals. That’s not to say that the film is meandering or without point, but the character and themes of the picture is what takes forefront. The film captures that creative spark, that sense of rebelliousness and experimentation one finds themselves in at university age. It feels genuine and you grow to like these characters whether you agree with their acts and beliefs or not. It has its moments of humour and fun, but in the end this is a serious and true tale. It deals with the negative aspects of death, love and life; subject matter fitting for a poem. It moves slowly but surely, but never to the point of tedium. How much of it is 100% true is unknown to me; I am not an English historian. But what matter is that this is a compelling story, and one that I found involving despite my disinterest in poetry. The only mistake I think they made was by starting in media res then going back; I felt it was unnecessary and spoils some of the tension in the third act.
Kill Your Darlings is an actor’s film, and the entire cast gets to show off their stuff in both big and small parts. Daniel Radcliffe has finally managed to shake off the shoes of Harry Potter and really sinks his teeth into the role of Ginsberg. His journey from naïve but troubled boy to poetic genius is a compelling one, made strong by his great performance. But in many ways he is outshined by Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, whose true entrance into the story is a memorable scene that immediately tells you what kind of character he is. His chemistry with Radcliffe is wonderful, with moments of friendship, betrayal and even love that seem truly genuine. Michael C. Hall has found an entirely new way to be creepy here, playing a much different kind of weirdo than Dexter fans would expect. Ben Foster is wonderfully bizarre as William S. Burroughs; this is probably his best work in a while. Jack Huston is also good as Jack Kerouac, though his performance isn’t quite as unique or deranged to stand out among the rest of the main players. Even smaller cast members like Elizabeth Olsen, David Cross and Jennifer Jason Leigh provide tremendous work in little screen time, topping off what is a nigh perfect cast.
This is John Krokidas’ first feature, and after watching this I’d say he has a bright future ahead of him. He doesn’t have any immediately noticeable flair to his work, but he knows how to cover action well and there are certain memorable moments of ingenuity, such as an Inception-esque moment in Ginsberg’s head. However, I found the film’s use of playing certain flashbacks backwards a bit odd and it didn’t really do anything for me. The film’s soundtrack captures the feel of the 1940’s, but occasionally too the music feels off.
Kill Your Darlings is a film that mainly rides on the performances of its cast, and it’s lucky that it has such a wonderful one. But the story and themes are good too and, like any great film manages to do, it got me to care about subjects I am not too interested in. This is not just a film for people who love “the fine arts”; anyone who has a passion for creativity and freedom should find something to enjoy here.
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10