Director: John Krokidas
Screenwriters: John Krokidas, Austin Bunn
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Jack Huston
Official Synopsis: While he is attending Columbia University in 1944, the young Allen Ginsberg’s life is turned upside down when he sets eyes on Lucien Carr, an impossibly cool and boyishly handsome classmate. Carr opens Ginsberg up to a bohemian world and introduces him to William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Repelled by rules and conformity in both life and literature, the four agree to tear down tradition and make something new, ultimately formulating the tenets of and giving birth to what became the Beat movement. On the outside, looking in, is David Kammerer, a man in his thirties desperately in love with Carr. When Kammerer is found dead, and Kerouac, Burroughs, and Carr are arrested in conjunction with the murder, the nascent artists’ lives change forever.
If you missed Chronicle or Lawless last year, you might not even be aware of up-and-coming actor Dane DeHaan. But his serpentine performance as Lucien Carr in this movie is the type of early career highlight that we'll all remember a couple of years from now when he's winning Oscars. Daniel Radcliffe plays young poet Allen Ginsberg, and continues to step further out from the shadow of the Franchise That Shall Not Be Named (not that that franchise is bad, but it's clear he's been choosing projects intended to let audiences know he's a “serious actor” and no longer a boy wizard). Ben Foster gives one of the more restrained performances of his career (but it's also one of the funniest), while Elizabeth Olsen does well in her five minutes of screen time and Michael C. Hall essentially turns into a tidal wave of passion whenever he appears. Jack Huston is especially solid as Jack Kerouac, bringing an added gravitas to the group.
Story and Direction
Kill Your Darlings knows how important these men are to the Beat movement, and with a veritable “who's who” of influential personalities meeting up in one movie, it's sort of like The Avengers for lit nerds. There's some heavy word porn going on in montages of the guys tossing out the old rules of writing and attempting to birth a new writing movement, but all of that is sort of peripheral to the heart of the story, which is a complicated love story between Ginsberg and Carr. Radcliffe's predominantly younger audience probably never thought they'd see him making out with another dude or having gay sex on screen, but both happen here. As for the behind the scenes work, first time writer/director John Krokidas creates a funny and soulful look at an untold story and keeps things compelling along the way. It's a fascinating story, made all the more powerful because it's based on true events, but while many of my colleagues seemed to love the movie, I thought it was good but not great. But this is Sundance, where you never know what you're going to get, so I'll take “good but not great” any day of the week.
It's pretty much On the Road meets Dead Poet's Society, with a slice of murder on the side.
Chances You'll See It in Theaters
I'd say pretty good for limited release, but with Radcliffe's popularity, there's a decent chance it could go a bit wider. Keep your eyes peeled.