Daniel Radcliffe surprised me in this film – I was ready to really dislike it – and him – in what I initially felt would be a lame attempt to revisit the early era of the original beat poets. As it turns out, I was impressed, and will admit that I seriously underestimated the talent that this young man has going for him.
Mind you, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan… and I unfortunately pigeon-holed Radcliffe into that role, and was unwilling to let go of my prejudice when it came to him taking on the role of the legendary poet Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings.”
Combining elements of a murder mystery with a coming of age story, it is set in the 1940’s at Columbia University in New York City and based on true events. The film documents the meeting of three of the founding Beat authors: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs: brought together through a mutual association with a young man by the name of Lucien Carr. Three men on the verge of reinventing American literature and poetry, stumbling through their own emotional and creative issues.
The murder of David Kammerer – a man obsessed with young Carr – is the focal point of the story. Kammerer apparently followed Carr from city to city (today we call them stalkers).
Carr’s mother moved him from one school to another, in an attempt to protect her son – until he ended up at Columbia University in New York City where the infamous trio of future beats come together.
The idea that, if not for Lucien Carr, the three legends (Ginsberg/Kerouac/Burroughs) may never have met – that’s the facet of this story that I find most fascinating. If you have even a passing interest in the work of the Beats, this film should definitely be on your viewing list.
The chemistry between Radcliffe as Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, is at the core of this film. Radcliffe steals the movie. I would never have envisioned him as Allen Ginsberg – and apparently this part was an on again / off again role that he ended up nabbing after the film’s initial production began to fall apart.
The one point about this film that does sort of bother me, is the screenplay. Watch the movie. Afterwards – read the Wikipedia entry about Lucien Carr. Not sure which came first…
After the events in the film, Carr ended up as a long-time editor for UPI, largely staying invisible in relation to the Beats. His son, Caleb, ended up becoming a bestselling author (“The Alienist”). In fact, the first edition of Ginsberg’s epic poem “Howl” was dedicated to Carr – until Carr requested his name be removed from future editions.
Director: John Krokidas
Producers: Michael Benaroya, Christine Vachon, Rose Ganguzza, John Krokidas
Screenplay: John Krokidas, Austin Bunn – Story by: Austin Bunn