Take a Drink: for every Lucien Carr bon mot
Take a Drink: whenever WWII is mentioned
Take a Drink: for “reefer” or other drugs
Take a Drink: for subway maps
Take a Drink: for unambiguously gay innuendos
Do a Shot: haha, attempted suicide
Do a Shot: oh shit, attempted suicide
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
I don’t know what it is about Allen Ginsberg movies that draws such ridiculously stacked casts, but after seeing the stuffed to the rafters cast of Howl, I was surprised to discover that Kill Your Darlings blow it out of the water.
And yet, somehow Jeff Goldblum has never played the man.
Kill Your Darlings is about the early friendship of some of the Beat Generation’s most emblematic writers, including Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) as they interact in and around 1940s Columbia University, brought together by their mutual friend Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). However, passion and murder loom over their personal and creative lives.
So yeah, that cast’s about as good as it gets. Radcliffe, like a lot of young blockbuster franchise actors (see: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, or to a… stranger… extent, Shia LaBeouf), has been distancing himself fro his beginnings as quickly as his agent can push him, and turns in fine work as a nebbish, restrained young Ginsberg getting his first taste of artistic and literal freedom. Dane DeHaan is over the top, but utterly magnetic, marching ever closer to stardom (he’ll be playing James Dean next year, which should do it). Jack Huston may seem to be choosing roles entirely based on his haircut, but delivers another strong, masculine turn as Kerouac. Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Michael C. Hall also deliver in widely disparate roles, but my favorite of everyone is Foster’s Burroughs, who may be heavily indebted to Hunter S. Thompson, but steals ever scene he’s in.
Lastly, casting David Cross as Ginsberg’s father is why casting directors deserve their own Oscar.
John Krokidas shows some nice directing chops, especially in one slowed down drug trip where DeHaan becomes the Devil’s own advocate. The title sequence was awesome, too, and while some people might not, I dug how he incorporated some contemporary tunes, like TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” during a library caper.
If only he’d just taken that stylized path, instead of trying to straddle it and more staid period pic conventions. The result is a film that is neither fish nor fowl, and which sometimes feels like Krokidas is doing something a certain way just because it sounded cool at the time.
Kill Your Darlings tries hard to cultivate a noir-like, mysterious vibe surrounding the murder at its center, but it’s not much of a mystery to begin with, and the choice to start the movie en murder res basically eliminates any suspense it might have had.
The worst part of the film is how much it demythologizes the Beat Generation while attempting the opposite. Again, Krokidas is trying to have his cake and eat it to, but often just makes his characters seem spoiled and pretentious and difficult to imagine going on to the vibrant, distinguished careers they did. Then he tries too hard to be portentous and foreshadowing of both his mystery and their later careers. Instead, the effect is clunky and highly unsubtle, kind of a like a whole TV show’s worth of comic book characters.
Hey, I know what a The Penguin is! Look Ma, Ise smart!
Kill Your Darlings’ deep and talented cast keeps it afloat, but it would have been nice if its script and direction had been a little less leaky.