Kill Your Darlings opened to rave reviews and a sadly limited cinematic release back in December. Now, with a DVD release coming in April, we look at exactly what made it so special.
Kill Your Darlings is ostensibly an Allen Ginsberg biopic, only it isn't. At no point do we see Ginsberg creating his iconic poem Howl, or indeed achieve any kind of success. Kill Your Darlings is more the story of Lucien Carr, the man responsible for bringing together the Beat Generation (Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs), and the murder that threatened to tear them all apart.
Kill Your Darlings is a lot of things packed into one movie. It is a celebration of the Jazz era and the Beat Generation, a story about Ginsberg's self-discovery, a slow-burn love story and a murder mystery. There's even time to bring in the tragedy of war, via Kerouac's dying soldier best friend. What is wonderful about this film is that none of this feels particularly crammed in, with only Burroughs' drug use and Ginsberg's mother's mental illness not receiving the screen time they deserve.
Daniel Radcliffe is wonderful as Ginsberg, fully dedicating himself to the challenging role. He is at once naive and self-assured, and his growing love for Carr naturally develops. Radcliffe shows a vulnerability on screen that hasn't been seen from him before, and not just in the much-discussed sex scene. If not for the fact that he was Harry Potter, this is the role that should define his early career. Hall, likewise, makes an amazing Kammerer, his advances towards Carr being suitably creepy and yet so pathetic that the audience can't help but feel for him in the eventual murder. Ben Foster shines in the smaller role of Kerouac, and Elizabeth Olsen weaves magic with the very little she is given to do as Kerouac's girlfriend, Edie.
The film is also not afraid to experiment, much like the Beat Generation itself, and this is seen in a stunning sequence towards the film's climax. As Kerouac and Edie listen to the dying words of their friend on a recording, Ginsberg loses his virginity (quite graphically) to an anonymous sailor with a passing resemblance to Carr, Burroughs loses himself in drugs, and Carr and Kammerer have their fatal confrontation. On the surface of it, this is just your standard montage, but it is the use of a dying soldier's goodbye layered over the scene that elevates it to something unique and special, and the no-holds-barred approach to the sex scene, the drug taking, and the murder.
Kill Your Darlings is, for the most part, your standard biopic, but becomes something special thanks to a fascinating story, fully committed performances from the cast, particularly Radcliffe, DeHaan and Hall, and a strong commitment to telling its story without holding back.
Kill Your Darlings is out now on DVD.