[Film Review] Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Kill Your Darlings poster

Title: Kill Your Darlings
Year: 2013
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Director: John Krokidas
Austin Bunn
John Krokidas
Music: Nico Muhlu
Cinematography: Reed Morano
Daniel Radcliffe
Dane DeHaan
Michael C. Hall
Jack Huston
Elizabeth Olsen
Ben Foster
Jennifer Jason Leigh
David Cross
Kyra Sedgwick
David Rasche
John Cullum
Zach Appelman
Olem Holm
Erin Darke
Rating: 7.1/10

A dazzling character piece centers around a brutal murder case which implicates several future literature big shots of the beat generation, Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) is the freshman of Columbia University, he encounters a fellow student Lucien Carr (DeHaan), who brings him into a world of unorthodoxy and defiance against the rules and conformism, and he also meets the young Jack Kerouac (Huston) and William Burroughs (Foster). But Lucien’s personal imbroglio with his fervent lover David Kammerer (C. Hall), a professor-turned-janitor, makes everything complicated, and eventually the real-life event changes their life path forever.

It is director John Krokidas’ powerful feature debut, affluently submerged into the zeitgeist of the time, with the alluring soundtrack and frenetic editing right on the ball, it is enthralling for most of its screening time! But a sticky problem is the brazen depiction of the drug-dependent inducement for inspiration and other crazy stuff such as asphyxiation attempt, although it is not a hagiography, but the impact strikes rather strong and it is too real to overlook.

Basically it is a straightforward story, man A is in love with man B, who selfishly considers himself is out of A’s league, moreover, there is a third man C is blindly obsessed with B, eventually a destructive denouement is a wake-up call for A, so he can withdraw from a no-good-ending infatuation and learn his lesson in a hard way. Redcliffe shows off his bent to immerse himself into a diversely challenging adult role and manage to unleash a manifesto declares that the most successful child star of our time is going to be a versatile thespians. As great as Redcliffe, the MVP here undeniably is DeHaan, whose unconventional charisma is lethally seductive but beguilingly hazardous, in the film, he is a merciless and contemptible egomaniac, a capricious manipulator and a doted kid, who is rebelling against the formality, but inside is wanting real talent, as he revealingly confesses, he is only an instigator, who can proffer vision for great minds, which he can keenly detect, that’s why Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs can all be together in one room, he is the magnet, the glue, the acute discernment is his expertise, DeHaan exerts an extraordinary ambiguity into his reasons and actions even in his cruelest scenes, we see devil on screen, disguised with an innocent mask.

A stellar supporting cast including Cross and Jason Leigh as Allen’s parents, a poet and his mad wife, Rasche is the rhetoric dean and Cullum is the established professor with a twist of unexpected sagacity in the coda, Kyra Sedgwick is uncredited as Lucien’s mother. Huston and Olsen make a bickering couple before Kerouac sails for his ON THE ROAD journey, but both under-utilized. Michael C. Hall is heartrendingly poignant in the critical stabbing replay, although his character is the biggest flaw in the plot, completely one-note and corny, he should have been more than a fool in love. Actually the unassuming and unheralded hero is Ben Foster, who is so good in dissolving himself into his character, his William Burroughs is never showy, he is a slow-burner, it is a great mimicry to say the least, one can hardly sense any trace of Foster’s own personality in it, he is consistently excellent and overtly the best among his peers, a true chameleon is waiting for his moment to shine!

Both DeHaan and Foster sneak into my year-end top 10 performances, DeHaan occupies the bronze presently, while Redcliffe misses the rank by just a notch (it is a difficult movie for Harry Potter devotees). As a first-timer, Krokidas accomplishes a pretty impressive debut, certainly deserves a spot on the watch-list of new-directors-on-the-horizon.

Oscar 2013 - Kill Your Darlings


Allen Ginsberg

Lucien Carr

Lucien Carr

David Kammerer

David Kammerer

William Burroughs

William Burroughs

Jack Kerouac and his girlfriend

Jack Kerouac and his girlfriend

David Cross as Allen Ginsberg's father

David Cross as Allen Ginsberg’s father

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Allen Ginsberg's mother

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Allen Ginsberg’s mother


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