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I had the opportunity to see this movie at the Sundance film festival this year. Absolutely amazing. John Krokidas is a visionary. This is proof that there is an acting life for Daniel Radcliffe after Harry Potter. It is a thrilling and provocative must see. The film flows beautifully and keeps you entranced. This film pushes the limits to new depths that the industry is in desperate need of. I left the film feeling like my mind had been opened to a whole new level. I will watch this movie again and again. But keep in mind it is not for the faint of heart, it is very intense. If you want passion, betrayal, sex, drugs and as rock and roll as the 40's can get, this is your movie.
There is a great story to be told about the beat generation. This isn't
(Kill Your Darlings (2013) is a biographical drama about the early adult years of the beat generation stalwarts Allen Ginsburg (1926-97), Jack Kerouac (1922-69), and William Burroughs (1914-97). For those of you who don't know the details, Ginsburg achieved much acclaim for his literary works, including a National Book Award for "The Fall of America" (1974) and a Pulitzer Prize nomination for "Poems 1986-1992" (1995). He was famous for his support of homosexuality and his opposition to the Vietnam War. Kerouac is most famous for his classic "On The Road" (1951) and his later "Big Sur" (1962). Burroughs was a prolific author ("Junkie", "Naked Lunch") whose themes of death, drugs, and homosexuality can be seen in their beginning phases in this film.)
The whole idea of the beat generation was that if you could dismantle the structure of communication and still have some worth, then anything was up for grabs. If poetry could give up rhyme and still have substance, then sex could give up its hetero prefix and still have love, and society could give up its mores and still find order. To such a message, the dull and plodding structure of standard film school does no homage. Nor do the film makers even seem aware of the message of the beat generation, putting in scenes of jazz, sex, drugs, and English class without seeming to understand their inter-relationships.
There is a great story to be told about the beat generation. This isn't it.
Typically, coming-of-age stories unfold in a predictable fashion: kid
tentatively ventures into the world beyond the one he knows, where he
encounters people and things that will change him and his outlook on
life forever. It would be easy to dismiss Kill Your Darlings as yet
another entry in a tired genre: the tale of a poet who finds his voice
through a heady cocktail of sex, drugs and college. But John Krokidas'
debut feature film, which takes as its subjects the American poets of
the revolutionary Beat Generation, fits in so much more, as it explores
a haunting search for life and legacy that teeters close to the edge of
Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) arrives at Columbia University keen to start a life away from the shadow of his famous dad, poet Louis Ginsberg (David Cross), and his mentally unstable mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). He meets the electrifying Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a rebel radiating so much charisma and ambition that it's easy to forget his lack of actual talent. Lucien brings together the aspiring artists who will soon come to change the literary world with their words: Allen, William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). As their lives intersect, their destinies intertwine, tangled up in the form of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), a man hopelessly caught in Lucien's enthralling spell.
Krokidas keeps this fascinating brew of hormones, hope and horror bubbling throughout, effectively nailing the champagne fizz of youth: a time when you could do ridiculous things, and remember them as romantic and revolutionary. Allen yearns, Jack drinks, William sucks nitrous oxide into his lungs in a bathtub, and Lucien keeps them all spinning. You don't have to know the Beat poets or their work to recognise the fire burning in these young men. Slicing and dicing pages of old classics, the boys make their manifesto quite literal: they will not rely on or succumb to tradition; their work will be conscribed by neither rhyme nor meter.
The most intriguing thing about Kill Your Darlings is that it refuses to romanticise this budding intellectual movement. The Beat poets may have become the idols of literary hipsters everywhere, but Krokidas takes care to tuck their ingenuity and creativity into the recognisable rhythms of everyday life. Desperate to hang onto Lucien's interest, Allen practically stumbles into his own talent. To create magic, he jerks off in front of his typewriter, or stupidly ties a noose around his neck to come a little closer to death. These young men, Krokidas seems to be saying, are treading a fine line between inspiration and tomfoolery. It's only when Allen recites a poem - on a moonlit night, on a stolen boat - that Lucien is comprehensively struck by his genius, as are we.
When the film spins into darker, more murderous territory, it moves from coming-of-age story to crime thriller - a genre shift that, oddly, works quite well within the universe established by Krokidas, as it allows Allen to contemplate the darker, less palatable side of Lucien's volatile personality. But it also becomes that much harder to separate the facts of these characters from Krokidas' fiction. David's tragic obsession with Lucien - one that the film suggests Allen could have shared - finally kicks off a tragic twist of events that unfold in a very particular way in Kill Your Darlings. Arguably, Allen ends up in an emotional place in the film that doesn't quite sit right with what actually transpired in real life, as told to us by a series of title cards just before the end credits.
Less controversial is the young cast, all of whom do first-rate work in disentangling the complex web of relationships that exists amongst these characters. Radcliffe is still a mite stiff as an actor, but this is his best on-screen performance yet: brave, bold, and proof that he's willing to challenge anyone's ideas of what he can do on screen. DeHaan is a firecracker as the capricious Lucien, burning so brightly that it's no wonder the other characters can't tear themselves away from him. Hall gets to sound a note of quiet desolation as David, whose infatuation isn't played simply as the unrequited lust of a madman. Only Elizabeth Olsen - as Jack's long-suffering girlfriend - is called upon to play a stereotype.
All in all, Kill Your Darlings marks an impressive debut for Krokidas. Shaken and stirred with a gloriously jazzy soundtrack and a colour palette that shifts from light to murky in a heartbeat, the film practically radiates tension both sexual and intellectual. It might have a little trouble with the facts of the matter, but, taken on its own merits, this is a smart, intoxicating look at how adolescent dreams must necessarily give way to the chilling bite of reality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A little over an hour-and-a-half, but seems much longer. Little to no conflict one can care about - Kammerer just pops in and out of the narrative, which can't sustain any sense of tension between him and Carr, or Ginsberg. The central figures of Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Carr come across as shallow and self-absorbed. Perhaps at that young age they were, but that doesn't make for compelling drama. And the montage surrounding the murder, with its heavy-handed penetration imagery, is so over-the-top obvious to be almost ridiculous. The cinematography is just ugly - I realize the lighting, color palette etc. were deliberate artistic choices, but it still looks unappealing. The actors do a good job with what they are given (Foster as Burroughs is especially good, capturing his cadence, inflection, and mannerisms without descending into mimicry), but overall the film is unfocused, slack, and unpleasant.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
College professor David Kammerer was the buzzkill/albatross of the Beat
Generation, that small group of bohemian writers who, during the
1940's, began what would change literature while incipiently shaping
the pivotal hippie era and, well, the rest is history
Kammerer's adoration for young pretty boy Lucien Carr, and the murder that resulted, is covered in several Jack Kerouac novels including VANITY OF DOLUOZ, DESOLATION ANGELS and even his first venture, TOWN AND THE CITY
But the main character is poet Allen Ginsberg, equal to Jack in the Beat template along with the strange, mythical William Burroughs Young HARRY POTTER icon Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg with the kind of sympathetic pathos begging for a transformation: in this case, drug-use leading to writing leading to homosexuality But we're skipping ahead
When Allen first escapes his crazy mother and becomes a Columbia University freshman, he's somewhat of an empty canvas Enter Dane DeHaan as Lucian Carr, an elfin, blond-haired/blue-eyed contemplating beatnik before there was such a thing Despite being the poster child for cerebral pretentiousness, Carr becomes an instigative mentor to Ginsberg
The more interesting scenes have the duo clashing with the uptight status quo while discovering drugs, jazz and planning a foundational "New Vision" to put the older poets (ala Ogden Nash) to rest And, like the sound of an orchestra tuning, there's only an eerie squeezebox of intention sans the necessary talent to progress their (at that point) lofty ideals
Legendary author Jack Kerouac, whose ON THE ROAD along with Ginsberg's epic poem HOWL ignited the Beat Generation, is a third-fiddle womanizer and the least important here Meanwhile, a lanky Burroughs mumbles through experimental drug trips and the character that should have been more prominent is Kammerer himself, the bearded college professor played by DEXTER star Michael C. Hall With only a sporadic dash of scenes, mostly involving Kammerer desperately hounding Lucien while a peripheral friendship/romance with Ginsberg blossoms, he serves more as a distraction than an essential catalyst... treated like a special guest star throughout.
What's ironic is the Kammerer/Carr case slowed down the spontaneity of the Kerouac novels, and amounts to little here The real purpose of KILL YOUR DARLINGS is Carr's hypocrisy countered by Ginsberg's realization as a homosexual morphing into a significant generational spokesman And in that, Radcliffe's edgy demeanor exceeds a visually pleasing but ultimately monotone story, rushing through what's really important: the collaborating genius between the three primary Beats
Instead we're left with a cinematic version of Ginsberg and Carr's grandiloquent NEW VISION A potential spark without any real burn.
John Krokidas' film explores the early life of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), and how he came into contact with Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). Through their association the ideas of the Beat Generation were born. The film starts off very promisingly, depicting Ginsberg's early life at home in Paterson, New Jersey, and his subsequent career at Columbia University. We understand something of he and his friends wanted to rebel against established conventions - not only literary but societal conventions. The 'official' view, as propounded by Professor Stevens (John Cullum) seems stuffy and old-fashioned. As the action progresses, however, so the film's priorities become diluted; rather than focusing on the genesis of the Beats, the action concentrates instead on the complex love-triangle involving Lucien, Allen and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). We are given the distinct suggestion all of three of them are emotionally immature, which thereby reduces the significance of their 'rebellion.' Matters are not helped by Radcliffe's rather colorless performance as Ginsberg - his expressions rarely change from being rather bemused as what's happening around him. A brave attempt at recreating the values of a previous generation, but the director seems to lose the courage of his convictions.
My review of Kill Your Darlings may be heavily bias because I have read
everything I can get my hands on about the relationship between
Ginsberg and Carr and I am a beat fan before almost many things.
However, this film examines Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) before he began
his literary revolution and the character is one I found easy to fall
in love with. Radcliffe portrays Ginsberg - with the aid of new comer
writer and director John Korkidas - with a playful naive innocence as
he approaches love and friendship at Columbia and his relationship
between Carr (Dane DeHaan) is believable from the moment you see them
in the same scene.
There is an obvious chemistry between DeHaan and Radcliffe that really aids the performance. I have seen this film twice now and upon reflection I enjoyed how the sexuality of the characters was not places heavily on screen despite the homosexuality of Ginsberg being a very key aspect of the films script. The sexual tension between Ginsberg and Carr was handled very well and I was never not intrigued by the compelling dynamic between the two and, if anything, by the end of the film was more curious about the relationship than I was when I walked into the theater.
Jack Huston and Ben Foster give amazing performances despite their lack of character development throughout the film but they never took all of the attention either which I especially enjoyed as it was never a film about just Ginsberg or a film about Kerouac alone as it was about all of the beat writers and the event that begun their revolution as inspirational writers.
Micheal C Hall gives an incredible performance, however, I felt as though I could really see his character of Dexter in the T.V show of the same title shine through his portrayal of Kammerer. This similarity did not hinder the film as a whole but in one particular scene I felt as though I was watching Dexter not Kammerer.
The main theme of the movie revolves around 'A Vision' by William Butler Yeats and his idea of life being circular carries deep within viewers as they watch Ginsberg's life 'widen'. This film is a must see for any of you who love the beats or those of you who are inspired by indie films about deeply buried tales.
"Another lover hits the universe. The circle is broken. But with death
comes rebirth. And like all lovers and sad people, I am a poet."
I knew nothing about Kill Your Darlings going into this movie (which means I basically don't know anything about modern American literature because apparently these guys were famous poets that influenced their generation during the 50's with their literary work). Known today as the Beat generation, they basically rejected the moral standards imposed at the time and innovated in style while experimenting with drugs and sex. Many films based on their work have been adapted for for the big screen (Howl, On the Road, and Naked Lunch), but I haven't seen them, so I actually went into this film without knowing anything about these writers. The film serves as an introduction as to how these writers came together and influenced one another during their teenage years, and it is told from Allen Ginsberg's point of view. This biographical drama/thriller may not be entirely factual, but it is still a fascinating story, and once the film ended it made me want to know about who these people were. The film's main attraction is the excellent chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan who give excellent performances (and after a while you actually forget Radcliffe is Harry Potter). The supporting cast is also strong, including Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, and Jack Huston. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Olsen, but in this film her character wasn't given much to work with, but it makes sense considering the Beat generation is a male dominated movement. It ended up influencing the hippie movement in the 60's and popular rock bands like The Beatles. This film only focuses on the early stages of their lives, but it shows how these artists came to know each other and how Lucien Carr was the most influential figure in their formation.
The screenplay was co-written by director John Krokidas and Austin Bunn focusing on the early stages of Alan Ginsberg's (Daniel Radcliffe) life as he began studying at Columbia University which shaped his philosophical views on life. The turning point in his life was when he met his classmate, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) who taught him to question the orthodox methods of the school and introduced him to other future icons of the Beat generation: William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). Together they would hang out in night clubs exploring new literary ideas and basically rediscovering themselves. They were against moral boundaries and explored with drugs and sex. Alan and some of the others also dealt with their homosexuality, while some tried to hide it. Lu also introduced Alan to one of his mentors, David Krammerer (Michal C. Hall), who was obsessed with Lu and ultimately led to a tragic event.
The film succeeds mostly because of the great performances from the young cast and because it is actually an intriguing story. John Krokidas isn't a director I was familiar with, but he does a decent job with this film. The film does have a believable 40's style and it stays true to the period. It is really well paced as well and it begins to get more interesting once the crime takes place. Unfortunately the film does lack some structure and at times I felt like it was wandering off. The scenes with Allen's mother never were explored much, but we understand how it affected his life and his relationship with his father. The characters are sometimes a bit too clever and don't feel real at times. Still, I was engaged with this film thanks to the material which is very interesting and I enjoyed the performances very much. The film is ambiguous at times, but that is what will leave you thinking and wanting to learn more about these characters at the end. It is all over the place at times, but I was drawn in to the story and for a biopic it gets the job done.
Director and co-writer (with Austin Bunn) John Krokidas have created an
atmospheric visit to the beginnings of one of literary history's great
movements the Beat Generation and in doing so have carved a fine
story that combines not only the rise of the Beats but also examines
the slow emergence of recognition of sexual identity crises, in both a
positive and a critical manner. Cast with a group of very fine actors
and accompanied with musical director Nico Muhly's sensitive score that
includes the references to Brahms symphonies and trios and
transcriptions of themes along with terrific excerpts from Harlem's
jazz scene (courtesy of Dawn Newman as a jazz singer), this film is
successful on many levels, not the least of which is the reminder of
the permanent impact on American literature and sociology imprinted by
the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. The
very sensitive opening sequence, appreciated only at film's end, sets
the dark tone of the film and opens the window to understanding the
Beats (also called "the Libertine Circle" by Ginsberg).
The time is the mid 1940s and Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliff) is an English major in Columbia University, assigned to be the roommate of Lucien 'Make me cry or make me horny' Carr (Dane DeHann) who awakens Ginsberg's rebellious self and introduces him to the work of Rimbaud. Dissatisfied by the orthodox attitudes of the school, Ginsberg finds himself drawn to iconoclastic colleagues like the egotistical but genius Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). Together, this gang would explore bold new literary ideas that would challenge Columbia University's staid stance and the sensibilities of their time as the future Beat Generation. However, for all their creativity, their very appetites and choices lead to more serious transgressions that would mark their lives forever. Lucien has been stalked since age 14 by the older gay David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) who sees Lucien as his lover, but in this version of the story Lucien acted out his same sex proclivities with both Ginsberg and Kerouac. Lucien murders Kammerer and drags his body into the Hudson River (recall the opening scene of the film) and it is the advice of both Kerouac and Burroughs that leads to the judgment of the questionable verdict. Ginsberg goes on to create 'Howl' and Kerouac moves toward 'On the Road' and Carr becomes a journalist. Despite the at times confusing dichotomy between the murder story and the literary awakening the Beats introduced, this is a fascinating depiction of a movement of enormous impact.
John Krokidas captures all the essence of the times in the 1940s New York City and his actors especially Daniel Radcliff bring this story to life. There is an uncredited role of Lucien Carr's mother superbly played by Kyra Sedgwick and any number of other fleeting bit parts that add to the mystique of the period. Recommended on many levels.
It's no surprise that some of the most effective works of the Beatnik
generation were born in the scuzzy halls of jazz bars; soaked with
whiskey induced grammar, intoxicated with muddled philosophies, their
pages bathed in the permanent smell of tobacco. Much like the work of
Lewis Carroll, drugs, alcohol, and culture were catalysts towards the
ideology of destroying the old and building the new. The movement
itself was a rousing feat with great cultural ramifications. The film
itself is a work that sometimes trades in the grainy for flashy;
rupturing not only the pattern that the authors were trying to break,
but the whole tone of the film as well.
If I pitched you a story about the Beat generation led by Harry Potter, the new Harry Osborne, a guy from X-Men and the guy from Boardwalk Empire with half his face missing, I'm sure the reaction would be pretty great. Unfortunately for audiences, the subject matter submits to a truly unauthentic, lack lustre festival formula and abandons creativeness and a unique vision for a familiar narrative that disregards great historical figures, making them caricatures within a lame murder/mystery genre film.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Allen Ginsberg, one of the most famous and recognizable poets in the American culture. Radcliffe continues to shed his 'Hogwarts alumni' image by taking risky, unconventional and edgy roles that all share in their seemingly controversial nature. Upon his acceptance and arrival into Columbia University, Ginsberg is in search of something offbeat. Ironically enough, Ginsberg is lured into the residency of Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), an intoxicated sociopath with an obsession for self-destruction, always curious for the taste of the complicated and unexplainable.
Together, Carr and Ginsberg start a small revolution in their heads, but without so many words. With the help of an unlimited supply of cannabis and some Johnny Walker, the two eventually enlist of the help of William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and a young Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and begin their uprising. Through constant disruptions by the reputation and prestige Columbia University holds so true and dear to its heart, the constantly stoned literary bandits are engulfed into a world of lovers, obsession and murder, intent on revolutionizing literature.
Kill Your Darlings starts bold and overwhelming, demanding utmost attention. Unfortunately, once attention is given, the film cannot hold its grip and deliver a rousing, culturally relevant story about some of the most influential figures in contemporary literature in the last century. Blending the lines of drug induced fantasy and reality, Kill Your Darlings is a story of breaking the formulaic path, distrusting all conventional and predictable beats of rhyme and meter, but sadly becomes a textbook festival entry with a forgettable conclusion.
The term to 'kill your darlings' is one that suggests destroying all the conventions and comforts of the mundane, reinventing yourself, and throwing inhibition to the wind and finding creativity will inspire instances of utter uniqueness. Kill Your Darlings, although sometimes confident, is an obsessive and complicated re-telling of enigmatic characters placed in a deceitful and over-dramatized tragedy of murder. With the rich historical and cultural imprint of these feisty literary pioneers, so much of the busy murder antics is clearly overshadowing the brilliant opportunity to showcase the likes of Carr, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac.
Mixing the potential monologue moments of Weir's 1989 Dead Poets Society with the tone and ambiance of Salle's 2004 masterpiece The Motorcycle Diaries, Kill Your Darlings becomes a self- inflicted suicide of a film with a tantalizing and promising narrative. Don't get me wrong, the performances are top notch; DeHaan is magnificent as Carr and Radcliffe is radiant as Ginsberg. However, while most of the top-billed cast is ravishing, and supporting cast is spot on, the film feels drowned in the water with average narrative clichés weighing it down.
While the antics of the underbelly of the New York Greenwich Village scene have been explored, battered, bruised and forever changed by the provocative and decadent Beat Movement, Kill Your Darlings remains a tame snippet of the life of these amazing authors and thinkers. Destined to be an example of a complicated festival biography attempt, the film will positively spark deep discussion. Kill Your Darlings repeats the initial reaction to Carr's response to Ginsberg's complicated life, "Perfect. I love complicated." Hopefully next time, an autobiographical cinematic take on the origins of the Beat Generation will be less gimmicky and more focused on the howling affect these fascinating individuals had on the world of literature, art, and our contemporary culture as a whole.
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