Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kill Your Darlings

One can only watch others "eat life" for so long, and director John Krokidas tests the limits in his new Beat Generation piece "Kill Your Darlings," with Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg.

Allen has scarcely unpacked at Columbia when fellow freshman Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) bewitches him by causing a boisterous scene at the library, calling for a literary "new vision." We're surprised by his entrancement; all of Lucien's papers are written for him by lovesick professor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), meaning he's not only Allen's intellectual inferior but a rather obvious manipulator. (DeHaan has a generic blond look and an expressionless visage that means to connote mystery but conveys only blankness.) 

"Kill Your Darlings" consists of a long series of scenes of young men behaving badly, and provides the same sort of name-dropping enjoyment that middlebrow audiences took in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris": the chance to feel smart by recognizing literary figures - Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William Burroughs (Ben Foster) - about none of whom we learn much. For a movie about writers, precious little attention is paid or love shown to the written word. Krokidas devotes the last quarter of the film to the who, how, and why of Kammerer's murder. I got the sense that few of the Radcliffe fans in my audience much cared; they were already annoyed enough at seeing their Harry Potter snogging with another boy and taking it up the bum.

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