The Beat Generation has always been a subject of interested to me and to a degree is one of the influences behind In The Kan, So waiting for this film about the progenitors of the movement was a title that had been on my radar…and then the local release was delayed by a year. But it’s finally here and while the acting is up there with the best, Kill Your Darlings misses the beat early on and never quite finds it again.
Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) was just your regular freshman at the university of Columbia, until Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) pranced into his life and filled his mind with thoughts of rebellion and social reform – this is the story of the beatniks before they were who we know them today.
Fans of biopics and period films will get the most out of this from a visual point of view, but as far as story goes, this one might better be left alone.
The Bottom Line
I won’t go into the history of the Beat Generation, the subject is just a Wikipedia article away…and that’s what creators of this film should have done as well seeing as this movie is less about the beatniks and more about their personal lives, if even that.
The story would have been interesting had it not been so scattered and unfocused. We see a lot of the character motivations but we never get a glimpse into these characters as people, it’s more of a pretence than a genuine look into these famed figures of writing. It becomes increasingly frustrating as the film progresses and due to the unbalanced nature of the narrative, the audience doesn’t really feel engaged or even compelled to endure it.
However, the acting is a cut above the rest and Daniel Radcliffe shows yet another side of himself just as he has been since his Harry Potter career came to an end. Dane DeHaan excels at playing excessive oddball characters with latent psychotic behaviours and if his performances in Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seemed familiar, his role as Lucien Carr hits the same notes and it works, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that he comes across as a little one-dimensional at times. The wild card here is Michael C. Hall who plays Carr’s obsessive love interest; he’s clearly the best actor of the bunch, but his character is never developed to the point where you care about his purpose in the story.
There is a distinct lack of connecting tissue between the characters, their emotions for one another never appear to be genuine and that is simply an error in the script. You never understand why Ginsberg has feelings for Carr as their simply isn’t any emotional gravity between them – a sentiment that is accentuated in a bizarre sex scene between Radcliffe and DeHaan that I’d like to say was tasteful, but I’d be lying if I did – it’s in the ballpark but is just on the wrong side of superfluous.
This film should should have had style, sophistication, intelligent writing, and most of all, a beat but instead most of the film feels as
though it has no rhyme or reason. The heritage of the beat generation is by no means mocked, but the scandal surrounding it is treated with greater priority than the mission statement and the manifesto itself is shown to be a childish joke rather than a matter of historical importance. Director John Krokidas should have been more clear with his objective with Kill Your Darlings as he does no justice to either side of the history and layers it in a convoluted and at times absurd manner, all of which are compounded by severely poor editing that gives the film a disconnected sort of vibe rather than a clear one. Kill Your Darlings gives you a taste for what this monumental period in thought was like, sadly the taste is sweet and sour, and more of the latter at that.