Passion propels action as the filmmakers and cast bring a lesser-known tale from the Beat Generation’s youth to the screen in “Kill Your Darlings.”
Starring the fine ensemble acting talents of Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, and Kyra Sedgwick, “Kill Your Darlings” explores the little known story of murder and obsession involving the young literary greats, Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Huston), William S. Burroughs (Foster), and Lucien Carr (DeHaan), all before they were published.
Co-writer/director, John Krokidas explains in the film’s production notes, “People have been fascinated with these guys for the past 50 or 60 years …. But we wanted to approach this not as a biopic about these three legendary writers, but rather as a story of who they were as adolescents – awkward, still trying to figure out who they really were.”
Seen mostly through the eyes of Allen Ginsberg, the film opens in 1944, as young Ginsberg, living with his minor poet father (Cross) and his mentally unstable mother (Leigh), gets accepted to Columbia University. At Columbia, Ginsberg quickly becomes enthralled with literary bad-boy, Carr. Carr quickly exposes Ginsberg to the West Village and the jazz clubbing, drug filled parties thrown by older friends, Burroughs and David Kammerer (Hall).
Kammerer is obsessed with Carr, having known and followed him around for years. Once a literary teacher and mentor, Kammerer takes janitorial jobs in New York, just to be close to the young Carr. But as Carr surrounds himself with new friends, like Ginsberg and later Jack Kerouac who prove to be on equal literary terms, Kammerer’s hold on Carr lessens. The jealous Kammerer pushes his obsession with Carr to the limit resulting in a most tragic consequence.
“Kill Your Darlings” is a fascinating take on the early lives of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac and Carr. As young adults challenging Columbia University’s hallowed, conservative halls of study with liberating manifestos like “The New Vision,” the film gives a somewhat inspired glimpse into the psyches of the men who would later break out and write “Howl,” and “On the Road.”
Like their subjects, Krokidas and his college pal, co-writer Austin Bunn attack this topic with a passion of their own, as does Radcliffe, who has made inspired acting choices following his “Harry Potter” films. One wonders if Radcliffe isn’t somewhat talking about his career when he remarks in the film’s production notes about how he responded to the Ginsberg part saying, “[Ginsberg’s] just desperate for someone to liberate him … and he finds this incredibly charismatic guy, Lucien Carr.”
And it’s Carr’s orbit of “obsessive” friends that spur the murder incident that will radically change and launch the writing lives of Beat writers Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, and even Carr, who later became an AP news journalist (and father of author Caleb Carr).
“Kill Your Darlings” is a cinematic, literary treat.
As a special filmmaker event, on Friday, October 18, after the 7:35 p.m. show at the Landmark Theatre, actor Dane DeHaan, who plays Lucien Carr, will host a Q&A.
Then, on Saturday, October 19 after the 8:10 p.m. screening at the ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood, DeHaan will host another Q&A.