Kill Your Darlings

NYU film grad John Krokidas’s début feature, Kill Your Darlings, about the beginnings of the Beat generation is far more effective than any of the many attempts I’ve seen to make a film about (or from a work by) Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac or William S. Burroughs. It may be because the Beats themselves were so anti-formal construction that the highly structured medium of cinema, whether in the form of narrative features like David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch or documentaries like Chuck Workman's The Source, never seem to capture the essence of what made these men and their writing unique. Kill Your Darlings focuses on the early years of these radical wordsmiths; how they met, how they developed their signature attitudes, and the murder they were all involved in. This limited scope makes for a fairly conventional, true-crime period piece mixed with a story of  first-love. This combination works far better than the existential group bio-pic I was expecting.

Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr possess as much chaste, period-piece homoeroticism as Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews had in Brideshead Revisited. Their dynamic grounds the film and makes it into a tragic coming-of-age tale. Anyone who has ever been young can relate to this film regardless of their sexuality or interest in literary ideals. The supporting roles are also exceptionally well cast, with many famous faces that do not distract when they appear. Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac, Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs and Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer all wear their iconic roles with a kind of easygoing authenticity that is so critical in films based on true-stories. These characters all feel like real people rather than legends, and this makes Kill Your Darlings both accessible and energetically engaging.

Directed by John Krokidas
Produced by Michael Benaroya, Christine Vachon, John Krokidas, and Rose Ganguzza

Written by Austin Bunn and John Krokidas

With: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, John Cullum, and David Rasche

Cinematography: Reed Morano
Editing: Brian A. Kates
Music: Nico Muhly

Runtime: 104 min
Release Date: 17 October 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1