1943, Allen Ginsberg (1926-97) receives a scholarship to Columbia University, New York City; plagued with a dysfunctional, delusional mother; his father, a published poet, encourages his exit. From the moment he commences college, his psychological shackles are unhinged by classmate Lucian Carr (1925-2005); bright, indolent, beautiful, he introduces Ginsberg to Jack Kerouak (1922-69), William S.Burroughs (1914-97) and outsider David Kammerer (1911-44); the “Beat Generation” and all its ramifications springs into existence. “Kill Your Darlings” captures the sexually conflicted young men, their high jinks, mental gymnastics, and “all that jazz”; fighting societal constraints, prudish dictates of wartime America; wicked, iconoclastic manifestos (“New Vision”) spew from their pens. Director, John Krokidas’s homage to these gifted men is simultaneously fascinating and flawed; edifying, powerfully- performed, and tremendously entertaining.
Daniel Radcliffe is enthralling as budding, gay poet, “Allen Ginsberg”; infatuated with “Lucian Carr” (marvelously depicted by Dane DeHaan) who masterfully manipulates the vulnerable sycophant. Their yin/yang relationship is the heartbeat of the film. “Burroughs”, woodenly, stoically- acted by Ben Foster, is the senior member of the group; Harvard grad, days and nights defined by drugs, unbelievable that they did not stunt his inventiveness. Jack Huston, is admirable as “Jack Kerouak”, indecisively vacillating between his desire for both men and women; maybe, the impetuous to escape and go “on the road”.
The weakest part of the film lies in the flimsily defined “David Kammerer” (Michael C. Hall) whose murder inspired the movie. Unsettling vagueness compromises what could have been a more intriguing character; possibly Krokidas’s intent; but lacks effectiveness.
“Kill Your Darlings” is a command to the neophyte; erase the influences, and never imitate, revered literary predecessors; Ginsberg’s icon was Walt Whitman. Ginsberg went beyond limitless boundaries and evolved into the most extraordinary poet of the twentieth century; “he followed his inner moonlight, and never hid the madness.”
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!