‘Kill Your Darlings’: A dark tale of the Beats’ beginnings | 3 stars

Updated: 2013-11-20T21:30:54Z


The Philadelphia Inquirer

Rated R | Time: 1:44

Before Howl, before the Beats, Allen Ginsberg was just another Jewish kid from Paterson, N.J. Well, another Jewish kid from Paterson with a crazy mother, a poet father, a love of Walt Whitman and a scholarship to Columbia University.

Wide-eyed (behind his tortoise shells) and still working out his sexuality as “Kill Your Darlings” begins, young Allen (Daniel Radcliffe) has arrived at the hallowed halls of ivy in the fall of 1944, ready to write up a storm.

What he isn’t quite ready for is falling in with a crowd that includes William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and falling in love with charismatic troublemaker Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Carr would stand atop a library table and read the naughty bits from Henry Miller. Out loud. Very loud.

What Ginsberg — whom Carr affectionately dubs “Ginsy” — also isn’t ready for is murder. “Kill Your Darlings” is based on a true and troubling episode in the lives of these fledgling Beat Generation icons. A stalker, a stabbing, a body to be gotten rid of. It’s the stuff of pulp, but it was real. The events surrounding the death of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) are the dark heart of John Krokidas’ headlong coming-of-age story.

Invoking Rimbaud and Yeats, inhaling nitrous oxide, speed, booze, cigarettes and coffee, Kerouac, Carr and Ginsberg dubbed themselves charter members of the “New Vision” movement and proceeded to career around Manhattan, hitting jazz clubs, underground boites and parties, parties, parties. Krokidas’ film captures the heady mania of the moment, and Radcliffe gives a smart, calibrated performance. His Ginsberg is a work in progress, still figuring out who he is, and who he wants to be.

“Kill Your Darlings” doesn’t waste a lot of time showing the poet or his cohorts hunkered down over their typewriters. They’re too busy drinking up as much experience as they can. If the film fails in presenting its subjects as fully formed characters, that’s not the fault of the screenplay (by Krokidas and Austin Bunn) so much as it is the fault of Ginsberg and company. The Beats were inventing themselves as they went along, posing, posturing and latching onto whatever struck them as radical, anti-establishment, cool.

“Kill Your Darlings” is a tale of inspiration, then, but also a tale of jealousy, obsession, homophobia and homicide. It’s a whirlwind. Even if it doesn’t all hang together, it’s worth the ride.

(At the Glenwood at Red Bridge, Tivoli, Town Center.)

| Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Deal Saver Subscribe today!


The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Kansas City Star uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here