Kill Your Darlings (Sony Pictures Classics, R)

Kill-Your-Darlings 75I didn’t think of Harry Potter while watching this, which is some kind of achievement.

Kill-Your-Darlings 500

The IMDB plot synopsis of Kill Your Darlings says, “A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation.” This is a bit misleading. There is a murder, but it’s a third act plot point, not the focus of the story. The real synopsis is that the great poets of the beat generation meet and hang out a lot. I guess someone decided that people wouldn’t want to see that movie. I don’t know why.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Allen Ginsberg, who on his first day at college meets Lucien Carr, played by Dane DeHaan. DeHaan has become a go-to for troubled youth characters, and at least here he gets to have some fun while also being deeply troubled. As for Radcliffe, I’ve never thought of him as a particularly great actor, but I didn’t think of Harry Potter while watching this, which is some kind of achievement.

Carr is a wild rebel, who immediately captures Ginsberg’s imagination. They eventually form a romantic relationship. There are lots of other players. Michael C. Hall plays Carr’s former lover. Jack Huston plays Jack Kerouac. Ben Foster is particularly fun as William Burroughs. David Cross and Elizabeth Olson are also in there, but they don’t get featured very prominently. The focus is the relationship between Carr and Ginsberg. Unfortunately, that relationship isn’t that compelling. Carr is so clearly a negative influence who’s just using Ginsberg that we kind of hate Ginsberg for falling for it. He just looks at Carr with wide-eyed wonder, which, frankly, is not earned.

Kill Your Darlings is the first feature by John Krokidas, and it feels like a first film. I don’t just mean that as a negative. It periodically has an energy and style to it that feels like the work of someone young and passionate. The film looks great and the period is very well rendered. The aesthetic elements are the strongest. Every once in a while there would be a montage that was bold and exciting about the process of creating and celebrating art, and I would get swept up in it. Then the movie would slow down again and remind me that I really didn’t care about these people. The pacing issues and tonal unevenness are the negative aspects of a first feature, and they really stand out.

Kill Your Darlings is not a bad film. It’s also not that good. It’s just nothing. I’m not upset that I saw it, but if I hadn’t had to write this review, I would never have thought about it again. It’s the kind of movie you can feel yourself forgetting as you walk out of the theater. If you really care about the beat poets, you might find something mildly interesting here. If you think the beat poets are really pretentious, this will only confirm that bias. If you really want to see Harry Potter engage in some fairly graphic gay sex, then congratulations, this is the movie for you. Everyone else will probably just be bored. | Sean Lass

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply