This year’s Sundance Film Festival features two separate films about the beat poetry movements greatest idols. Director John Krokidas marks his feature directorial debut with Kill Your Darlings, about the tectonic shift in literature and expression by Alan Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, and the dark events surrounding it.  To find out more, check out the review.

 

The Players:

Synopsis:        

After being accepted to Columbia University, a young Allen Ginsberg’s (Radcliffe) life is changed when he befriends Lucien Carr (DeHaan), who introduces him to a bohemian lifestyle and a limit-free world of self expression. Beginning the Beat Movement with other writers Jack Kerouac (Huston)and William S. Burroughs (Foster), the young men enjoy their freedom until David Kammerer (Hall), an older man in love with Carr, is found dead-leading all except Ginsberg to be arrested for involvement with his murder.

 

The Good

  • Supporting Cast:  The greatest strength of this film lies in the performances of its supporting actors.  Ben Foster is a phenomenal talent, with a knack for choosing roles that are challenging to him as an actor, and thoroughly engaging to audiences.  His portrayal of drug culture pioneer William S. Burroughs is delivered with a lofty detachment that almost places him above and beyond the goals of his peers, yet still allows for influence over them.  Michael C. Hall also turns in a stellar performance, playing to his strengths of portraying both tragic loneliness and threatening charm.  Jack Huston also delivers a Kerouac whose captivating perspective drives the other characters to elevate their craft.
  • Atmosphere:  Kill Your Darlings looks excellent.  Most of the scenes are interior, allowing the Reed Morano and her camera department to really create dynamic lighting which compliments the production design team’s dense and transportive sets.  The scenes in Columbia university are tailored to generate a strong sense of order and institution, which proves rife for rebellion.  The scenes in lowest east side are dank and smoky, but also display enough color and energy to starkly contrast the other side of the coin.

The Bad

  • Oh, Danny Boy -  Daniel Radcliffe has made some bold career choices since hanging up his wand and broom; He broke into the horror genre with The Woman In Blackhe performed in Equus, a play which required him to be fully nude on stage, and now he’s taking on the role of one of America’s most profound poets of the 20th century (not to mention the steamy gay love scenes in the movie).  He’s working very hard to prove that he can be more than just Harry Potter.  The problem is, that no matter how hard he tries, it will always be difficult for audiences who followed that franchise to look past that.  Furthermore, his performance in Darlings is at times very theatrical, which reads on camera as awkward and over the top, and thus out of line with the other cast members.
  • Anachronistic Tunes – One of the key elements of the beat movement was music.  It paralleled bebop, another unrestrained and non-linear form of expression, which caused a comparable sea change in tone, and changed the history of American music.  This is present in the film only very briefly, and the rest of the soundtrack is filled with contemporary bands like TV on the Radio, and Bloc Party, whos modern electronic sounds are completely out of place and distracting from the story.  The songs themselves may reflect an appropriate feeling, but their placement  in the film pulls the viewer right out of the moment.

Overall

At times, Kill Your Darlings feels as much like a manifesto as that being created by its central characters.  This new generation of actors approaching mature adulthood are attempting to assert themselves as daring and innovative within a movie that isn’t, and it may be to the detriment of both sides.  It may serve as an interesting and informative film to both fans of beat poets and the uninitiated as well, but doesn’t necessarily stand out as a remarkable film.

Rating 6.5/10