If anyone needs further proof that Daniel Radcliffe is actually a decent actor, Kill Your Darlings is the film to watch. Chronicling the rise of the Beat generation, it counts Dane DeHaan, Radcliffe, Elizabeth Olsen and Michael C Hall among its cast. When Allan Ginsberg (Radcliffe) joins Columbia University, he meets Lucien Carr (DeHaan) who introduces him to a world of literary rebels including William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), who become the Beat generation following the death of David Kammerer (Hall).
The film does a wonderful job of capturing the frenzy these writers were in with montages showing parties, bars and writing sessions involving ripping books apart and nailing pages to walls. It shows the things they got up to, such as Carr, Kerouac and Ginsberg stealing a boat and littering Columbia’s library with restricted material. These scenes are great fun to watch and almost made me want to give On The Road another go. The most remarkable thing about this film is that it’s hugely enjoyable to someone (like me) who isn’t a fan of their writing. But it doesn’t focus on what they’re writing. Instead it looks at how they came to be the Beat and what drew Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg together. The only problem with the film is the soundtrack which doesn’t work very well and even pulls you out of the film at points.
In terms of the performances there isn’t a fault here. Dane DeHaan, last seen by this critic in The Place Beyond The Pines, is just as good. He has this odd expression for the majority of the film which manages to be smarmy, disparaging and friendly all at the same time. His performance is brilliant but doesn’t overshadow anyone else, mainly Radcliffe who shares a lot of screen time with him. Radcliffe and DeHaan have a great chemistry which, as the film progresses, changes quite dramatically but they’re believable throughout. The remaining cast are great too; Ben Foster in particular is wonderful as the eccentric William Burroughs who somehow remains the voice of reason throughout the film.
Overall this is a great feature debut from John Krokidas, a director who has previously worked on a number of shorts. His casting and story decisions are great and very promising, plus the performances he got out of his actors go to show his skill as a director. The film was shot in a very short amount of time but it’s an accomplished and interesting take on a generation of writers who have inspired many. Aside from the soundtrack issues, this is a great start for Krokidas and a great step in the right direction for Radcliffe.
Director: John Krokidas
Writers: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall
Runtime: 104 min