Review: Kill Your Darlings

Is there anything more dull than watching a writer tapping furiously on a typewriter, even if he’s on amazing drugs? Okay, with the notable exception of all-work-and-no-play-makes-Jack-a-dull-boy of course. Fortunately Kill Your Darlings is about more than the emergence of a literary group that would hold future English 101 classes in raptures. The boys who seeded the Beat Generation broke the rules of their professors, but more interestingly lived on the edge and a brutal crime lurks in its origins.

Director John Krokidas lusciously paints the story in nostalgic sepia while setting the tone driving forward with the jittery urgency of an era perched on great change. Daniel Radcliffe plays latter day great Allen Ginsberg as a wide-eyed freshman swept across the river from his dysfunctional New Jersey home into the vortex of the more charismatic characters he encounters at Columbia – William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and the pretty boy troublemaker Lucien Carr, played by Dane DeHaan with all the piercing, smirky magnetism of a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ginsberg’s obsession with Carr forms the central relationship as the young poet grapples with discovering his own sexuality and his writerly talents (cue the feverish typing). Radcliffe proves he’s more than a one-trick wizard but it’s the instigator Carr who is the most intriguing character, excitingly leading the manifesto then becoming embroiled in the killing. That we only see him through passive Ginsberg’s adoring eyes sets up a distance that stalls the drama at times. Yet, by keeping the film focused on one eventful time period, Kill Your Darlings avoids the traps of most sprawling biopics and this largely factual rendering makes a thrilling prelude to literary history.

‘Kill Your Darlings’ Movie Times