Kill Your Darlings

Sex, lies, betrayal and murder set among the gods of the Beat Generation. That's Kill Your Darlings, a dark beauty of a film that gets inside your head and stays there. Daniel Radcliffe, erasing all memories of Harry Potter, delivers his best screen performance to date as the young poet Allen Ginsberg, a Columbia freshman in 1944. Along with Jack Kerouac (a sly, winning Jack Huston) and William S. Burroughs (a first-rate Ben Foster), Ginsberg kicks off a literary revolution. Writer-director John Krokidas, in a striking debut, has caught the Beat Generation in the enthralling act of inventing itself. And dealing with a murder committed by one of its own, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a sleep-around rogue who inspires rather than creates, except when it comes to trouble.

Ginsberg's erotic yearning for Carr is palpable. Radcliffe nails every tortured nuance in the role, and DeHaan is stellar, displaying a charm that is both seductive and cruel. Which leads to the murder. "Kill your darlings" is a term that advises authors to rid themselves of extraneous words and phrases. Carr takes it literally. When an older man, David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), becomes too clinging, Carr stabs him and dumps his body in the Hudson River, leaving his friends under suspicion. And so a lethal sidebar to literary history becomes a hothouse of mystery and obsession that evokes an era.

From The Archives Issue 1194: October 24, 2013