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film review: kill your darlings

experience the birth of the beat generation.

by: steff yotka

October 15 2013

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You think you know about the origins of the Beat generation, but you have no idea. After watching Kill Your Darlings your understanding of what birthed and fueled Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Williams S. Burroughs will change forever. And you'll probably spend at least 10 hours on Wikipedia searching the events depicted in the film. 

What begins as a murder mystery slowly unravels to tell the tale of Ginsberg, played by Daniel Radcliffe, during his first year as a Columbia student where he meets the waspy, blue blood Lucien Carr, brought to life wonderfully by Dane DeHaan. Radcliffe's Ginsberg isn't the bearded messiah of posters you'll recognize, he's a bumbling, twitching, young gun looking for a direction to shoot at, and Carr provides the target. Their friendship begins with a copy of Yeats' A Vision, and leads into drunken debauchery, awkward sexually fused encounters, and nights romping around New York City with Kerouac, played by Jack Huston, and Burroughs, portrayed by Ben Foster. Constantly tailing the foursome, however is David Kammerer, played hauntingly by Michael C. Hall, a longtime friend/lover/nemesis of Carr. 

Tension mounts throughout the film in every storyline: Ginsberg's mother becomes increasingly mentally ill, Carr's relationship oscillates between hot and cold with Kammerer, Kerouac argues with and cheats on his girlfriend Edie Parker (Elizabeth Olsen), and Burroughs delights in the drugs that will lead him to Naked Lunch, all while World War II plays out in the background. Admittedly, I'm not a very good movie watcher--I have an amazingly short attention span--but this film will kept me glued to my seat because there are no rising or falling actions, there is only Michael Bay-style drama, except without the explosions or hoopla. It's pure psychological drama that made me physically hurt--from the needles entering Burrough's skin to the brash voice of Kerouac, to the extremely close, shaky shots of Ginsberg's face, the whole movie is an emotional upswing that only gets more constricting until it reaches it gruesome climax about 80-percent way through the film's 104 minute run time. 

Carr says to Ginsberg in the film, "You need to die a small death to be reborn," and this film depicts the small death that each of these young writers lived through to transform them into the behemoths they would become. It's not always a pleasant movie to watch, but it will change your perspective forever. Do yourself a favor, and don't miss it.

Kill Your Darlings opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles


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