Kill Your Darlings Directed by: John Krokidas Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Jack Huston Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins Rating: R Release Date: November 1, 2013 (Chicago)
PLOT: College kid Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) tries to start a literary revolution with William Burroughs (Foster), Jack Kerouac (Huston), and their troublesome friend Lucien Carr (DeHaan).
WHO'S IT FOR? Being a fan of the characters and their following work is not necessary.
Writer/director John Krokidas is very knowledge about his topic. He could likely speak forever on their work, and what their famous expressions mean to him. But even so, his portrayal of literary legends Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs is not some romanticized origin story on his heroes, but one that recognizes their less flattering traits. He presents them in his feature debut as relatively naive freaks and geeks whose first-class advantages distance themselves from real struggle; protected from the real world, like a numerous other college students, by their parent's money.
The revolution they think they are starting is shown to be no different than any other boy's club made by millions of other upstarts around the world, who are less lucky when it comes to being remembered along with their art. DeHaan's Lucien is a fine example, as he speaks grandiose ideas of romanticized artistic anarchy, but doesn't write his own evocations. In terms of the future heroes in Kill Your Darlings, it's more like these dorm room dudes just happened to be in tune with something ready to burst, regardless of the movie's center event that an epilogue associates with their artistic maturity. If this story took place in 1996, they probably would have started a Black Flag cover band.
Working with these raw depictions is a set of strong performances, particularly from Dane DeHaan who continues to hone compelling impressions of young men with complicated backgrounds, coming after roles like Chronicle and The Place Beyond the Pines. He works particularly well against Daniel Radcliffe, who has successfully shaken off any Harry Potter remnants (as he is right to do), using his charisma to bring us into a part of the world that is more intriguing than any fantasy.
Krokidas has his own upstart fun with the movie, particularly in his choice of music. His usage of period tunes does well for creating atmosphere, but with little hesitation he also throws in songs from The Libertines, TV on the Radio, and Bloc Party. Why? Because he's just starting, I assume. Just as his author subjects were throwing themselves at the wall in terms of their work, lunging instinctively in various directions, Krokidas feels fine to wave his own hipster flag.
Kill Your Darlings is all the more sturdier because it is fine with its audience considering its young upstarts "pretentious douchebags," to put it in terms of how Eduardo Saverin felt for Mark Zuckerberg by the end of The Social Network. Some of the characters in Kill Your Darlings may already be remembered by history before this film, and others may not. Either way, Krokidas makes his subjects all the more believable by agreeing that none of these rich college students are entitled to a particularly flattering portrayal.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10