Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kill Your Darlings

The fact-based Kill Your Darlings, directed by John Krokidas, falls into a trap common to films about writers. How can the act of writing be depicted on screen? The answer here and in far too many films is, of course, montage sequences. In 1943, young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) enters Columbia University and almost immediately falls in with friends that include William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston, who like Foster is underused). The pulse of the group comes from Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who isn't a writer himself but who articulates the group's self-expression heavy "New Vision". The film follows the friends' mischief and the increasing sexual tension between Ginsberg and Carr while also telling the story of attentions Carr received from the older David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg with the right sense of awakening (on many fronts), but there's too much going on here and Ginsberg is almost reduced to a supporting character in the story of his own life. Krokidas and co-writer Austin Bunn introduce Ginsberg's mentally ill mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) but barely develop the character and Ginsberg's early creative efforts and jousting with a stodgy professor (John Cullum) are glossed over. Dane DeHaan plays Lucien Carr with his usual sense of being capable of anything, but Carr's climactic killing of Kammerer (no spoilers, it's revealed in the first scene) doesn't matter enough. Everything in Kill Your Darlings is designed to get Ginsberg to a personal and sexual awakening, but it's the script's focus on the wrong relationships that marks Kill Your Darlings as a missed opportunity.

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