Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Huston.
Running Time: 104 minutes.
Synopsis: Daniel Radcliffe shines as the young Allen Ginsberg in this fresh and vibrant take on the early days of the Beat Generation.
Daniel Radcliffe is one smart cookie. Here is a man who has picked his post-Potter projects very well. His choices have exceeded expectation in terms of critical acclaim (A Young Doctor’s Handbook) and box office success (THE WOMAN IN BLACK), and he’s such a likeable chap to boot. So, it’s thrilling to say that playing a young Allen Ginsberg is the best thing he could have done because he, and the film he leads, are brilliant.
Whether you’re a fan of the Beat Generation or not, John Krokidas presents a character-led drama that is lighter than you might expect, but still lands a heavyweight punch. Of course it helps if you dig the stream-of-consciousness musings of Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster), but it doesn’t really matter if not. The characters are so strong and the pace so tight that what feels like a breezy biopic is actually addressing some primal human conditions; love, desire, obsession, responsibility, creativity, rebellion, fear and blowjobs in a library.
It’s a welcome addition to the new-queer canon and this owes a lot to the fantastic central performance from Radcliffe. While James Franco was superb as Ginsberg in HOWL, he seemed to be playing an idea of the poet, while dear Daniel inhabits the character and examines what makes young Allen the man he is. The Boy Who Lived has come on leaps and bounds since he waved his sprogs off at Platform 9 and 3/4. Emoting rage and despair were never his strong suits at Hogwarts, but, by Dumbledore’s delightful drapes, has he gotten better. His dark eyes and coy smile hide a range far greater than anything he’s displayed before, swinging gracefully between a drug induced jazz fever to the roaring anguish of a spurned lover.
While it’s Radcliffe’s film, his support couldn’t be better. Hall is charming and frightening in equal measure as the doomed David Kammerer, David Cross and Jennifer Jason Leigh do a great job setting up Ginsberg’s inner torment as his parents, and Elizabeth Olsen, as Edie Parker, makes the most of her limited screen time in her ongoing quest to steal every scene in all of her films. DeHaan, playing Lucien Carr, looks more like a young David Bowie than David Bowie did when he was young and serves mainly as a McGuffin. He is sure to be a future star, but on this occasion is outshone by a frankly great cast.
Krokidas handles his actors as well as his camera and with his editor, Brian A. Kates, creates a visual rhythm in keeping with that of his subjects. This is particularly well delivered with his use of montage, the stand out sequence being where Krokidas draws parallels between a stabbing, intravenous drug use and sex, inter-cutting beautifully between three types of penetration.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS is an exceptional film. Lashings of pathos, a sprinkling of smut with romance and tragedy around every corner and it’s all linked by some staggering, beautiful poetry and a treasure trove of linguistic delights. It is wonderful to see a film in which a curious nature, bookishness and a love of words are seen not only as positive facets, but are traits to aspire to. You don’t have to start a pop-cultural revolution or personify the wilder prose of Yeats to achieve a personal enlightenment. Nor do you have to dive into the tempting waters of drug experimentation or sexual exploration to broaden your horizons. Just try something creative, embrace new experiences and realise that you will lose as often as you love, and that’s okay.