Those things and people that you love increasingly define you. Unfortunately, they can also become a destructive parasite that needs to be cut loose. Kill Your Darlings tracks the origins of one of America's most lauded poets, Allen Ginsberg, and the beginnings of the 'Beat Generation' (Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs) leading up to the murder that affected the course of their lives. Director and co-writer John Krokidas creates canvases for these great performers to shine. These slight, literary men aren't your larger than life figures but Krokidas makes them feel titanic. Each performer gets to convey their characters stature in intimate, tortured gestures. The world is large; they pale in the face of their institutions and formal definitions of what their art is. The vibrancy in the colour palette has been completely turned down. It makes sense for these night owl, psychedelic drug crash test dummies to be that chalky white but it almost feels as if the colour is being drained out of the worth in the midst of war. Krokidas and co-writer Austin Bunn focus this struggle of self-definition in the foreground, while a prevalent but unseen a world at war inadvertently dictates their surroundings. The kinetic energy of the existential crisis that would envelope Europe planted seeds in this 'beat generation.' We're groomed to see the USA as being as bleak as Europe in that inter-war period, but war didn’t touch their shore. The luxury of shelter in the opulent New York City scape can't help but fuel their discontent.
Daniel Radcliffe's Allen Ginsberg bursts from the screen. There aren't many performers who can so authentically portray familial responsibility, staunch morality while being willing to surrender to sexual and cognitive expansion. The debauchery is a cellophane filter that drapes over who he is. Through the prism of his consciousness you can see him growing and discovering who he's going to be. There's a gleeful abandon that thankfully writers Krokidas and Bunn stay with Allen. There are moment’s where you see the flagrant sexuality, the fever that artists who've pushed the envelope and the masturbatory relief of committing those perfect thoughts to paper. He's the most grounded and likeable of the quartet despite being in the flux of sexual and identity crisis. Showing his beginnings with his father Louis Ginsberg played by David Cross and his unhinged mother Naomi, in a brief but memorable performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh shows you what he's composed of.
Dane Dehaan's Lucien is a muse. He's the fire that these creative men gather around, bathing in the warmth until they realise that napalm is coursing through his veins. His piercing blue eyes are like a violent ocean and you see that Allen Michael C. Hall's David is lost in their allure. With Dexter done it's so refreshing to Hall inhabiting the skin of another character. There's an exterior sophistication and calm in David that covers a helplessly infatuated slave to the whims of the hypnotic Lucien. Ben Foster is almost unrecognisable as William Burroughs. Retreating into the erudite introvert, he's the silent partner in Allen and Lucien's explorations into the depth of nitrous oxide and whatever other drugs they can get their hands on. Jack Huston's Jack Kerouac is a world weary man; already well on the trail that they all eventually blaze. Unfortunately Sam Riley's wonderful portrayal of Kerouac in On the Road towers over Huston's.
Kill Your Darlings weaved the mythical origins of the beat generation into a fiercely engaging drama about finding yourself amidst crises of identity, sexuality and art.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: John Krokidas Written by: Austin Bunn and John Krokidas Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, John Cullum, Brenda Wehle
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.