Review: Kill Your Darlings (Sundance 2013)
PLOT: The early years of “The Beat Generation”, following Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) through their time at Columbia University, through their involvement with a murder.
REVIEW: I can't say KILL YOUR DARLINGS was high on my priority list of films for this year's Sundance Film Festival. After ON THE ROAD, and HOWL- not to mention another Sundance 2013 entry, BIG SUR, did we really need another Beat Generation film? To my surprise, I guess the answer is yes, with KILL YOUR DARLINGS being the best film, by far, I've ever seen about any of these writers.
Writer/director John Krokidas apparently spent nine years trying to turn this into a film, and the final project really does feel like something that's been meticulously researched and honed over time. This could have been a bit of a pretentious bore (like HOWL), but KILL YOUR DARLINGS is never anything less than engrossing.
Daniel Radcliffe shakes off his Harry Potter persona in a big way as Ginsberg. Even as Harry, Radcliffe always seemed like an incredibly talented actor, and the way he totally transforms himself into Ginsberg is astounding. Nothing is shied away from here, including his drug use, or his homosexuality, with the crux of the film resting on his relationship with the enigmatic Lucien Carr, played by Dane DeHaan.
For his part, DeHaan is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. He exploded onto the screen with CHRONICLE, and absolutely blew me away in the soon-to-be-released PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. As Carr, he again gets to play a bit of a brooding misfit, but this fits DeHaan (a dead-wringer for a young Leonardo DiCaprio) to a tee. Like Ginsberg, Carr is a guy trying hard to alternately come to terms with, or repress his homosexuality in an era where it was still taboo, and his scenes opposite a superb Michael C. Hall, are probably the most powerful parts of the film.
By comparison, Ben Foster as Burroughs and Jack Huston as Kerouac seem a little less important, but both are superb. Foster seems to be having a blast sinking his teeth into the drug abusing (to put it mildly) Burroughs, while Jack Huston (my favorite actor on BOARDWALK EMPIRE) is great as Kerouac- maybe even better than Sam Riley as his doppelganger in ON THE ROAD.
One of Krokidas' more unusual choices in KILL YOUR DARLINGS is to use contemporary music in the soundtrack. While it's a little off-putting hearing tracks by bands like TV on the Radio, or Bloc Party pop up on the soundtrack, it's a unique choice, and one that surprisingly works quite well. Sony Classics picked this one up early in the festival, so I'm sure KILL YOUR DARLINGS will get a good release at some point this year. It's a really good film that deserves an audience, and even if HOWL or ON THE ROAD rubbed you the wrong way you should still check this out. And if you're a Harry Potter fan- get ready to have your mind blown by Radcliffe's transformation. If anyone has any doubts Radcliffe will be able to escape the shadow of Potter- watch this. Radcliffe is here to stay.