★★★★ | Kill Your Darlings

The cinematic fascination with The Beat Generation continues regardless, following on the heals of Walter Salles’ take on Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, which the critics were quick to dismiss when it recently had a limited release in US theatres. We now have this new movie which, set in the mid 1940’s, is essentially a prequel to the movement that was about to begin. It’s Lucian Carr’s story, a central figure in Allen Ginsberg’s coming out, and the wittiest member of their clique at university, who ended up killing his obsessed older ex-lover David Kammerer who just wouldn’t leave him alone.

It’s a heady period in these young men’s rite of passage into adulthood when despite the war going on in Europe they could indulge in whatever extreme pleasure they wanted too. For the wealthy William Burroughs it was an endless stream of drugs, and he coasted through it perpetually stoned. Ginsberg had shaken off his New Jersey roots, and now at Columbia University could finally shed the responsibility of the demands of his mentally ill mother, and nurture his writing and explore his sexuality. He was fixated with the charming, flamboyant and excitable Carr who incessantly quoted chunks of Yeats and Rimbaud but yet relied on Kammerer to actually write all the essays needed to keep him from being expelled from college. Carr’s past history was gradually exposed as the story developed, and he was revealed as possible the most confused of this very challenged bunch of friends.

Through Carr, Ginsberg met many of the people that would remain in his life and play a significant part one way or another, including Jack Kerouac, one of Carr’s best friends. (Strangely enough another person that he met… again via Carr… was Neal Cassidy who he developed a major crush on, but there is no mention of him at all.)

Whilst the movie is ostensibly about the murder and the subsequent trial, it is essentially much more about how this bunch of friends gelled together as a group and how that time really set them on course for what lay ahead and would eventual earn them the label the Beat Generation. Carr does get arrested for the murder of his ex lover, and pleads that it was an ‘honour slaying’ i.e. that he was straight and Kammerer was a predatory homosexual. Both Burroughs and Kerouac were also arrested as they helped dispose of the body resulting in Burroughs being forced to move back home, and Kerouac being forced to marry his girlfriend in return for her family bailing him out. But before this all happened, Ginsberg finally lost his virginity to Carr.

Newbie director/co-writer John Krokidas worked on this movie for 10 years before he got it to its premiere at Sundance this January. It’s a refreshing look at the loss of innocence… Ginsberg’s and Carr’s in particular as it is hard to imagine that Burroughs ever had it to lose… and a much more palatable movie than ‘Howl’ the slightly inaccessible and tad pretentious vehicle in 2010 for James Franco to try his hand at playing Ginsberg. It may in fact end up being the best ever made of this clique, but maybe that’s too premature a statement as there are probably still many more to come.

I’m still reeling from the fact that the unknown Krokidas could manage to recruit such a first rate coterie of actors for his first movie… The clue maybe in the fact that Christine Vachon of Killer Films (Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven) is one of the producers. Daniel Radcliffe shakes off his Harry Potter mantle to show what a very impressive talent he really has. He also shakes off all his clothes to show that he can also make out with another man in a very convincing way. Ben Foster (The Messenger) was excellent as the very dry Burroughs, and equally wonderful was Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) as Kerouac, Michael C Hall (Dexter) as Kammerer and with a very small part, Elizabeth Olsen (Martha,Marcy,May & Marlene) as Eddie Parker, Kerouac’s girlfriend. There is an impressive list of supporting cast that included Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgwick, David Rasche, John Cullum & David Cross.

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However it was young Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) playing the extrovert Carr with a career defining performance, stole every scene he was in.

The movie will attract a great deal of attention because of the mere fact of seeing Mr. Radcliffe all grown up, but regardless of that, he is definitely worth watching even if like me you have never sat through a Harry Potter movie!

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About the author: Roger Walker-Dack
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