A true story of friendship, love and murder, Kill Your Darlings recounts the pivotal year that changed Allen Ginsberg's life forever and provided the spark for him to start his creative revolution.
Over the past couple of years, we've had a string of films based on the Beat Poet generation that spawned writers and poets Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. Some have been documentaries, some have been narratives on their successful careers, but none have covered in depth, the time period where all of these writers met in college and were part of a murder. First time feature filmmaker John Krokidas knocks it out of the park with his jazzy, drug induced opus that is called ‘Kill Your Darlings‘.
This film shows the very start of the Beat Poet generation and the friendships, influences, and predators that shaped these iconic writers that we know and study today. ‘Kill Your Darlings‘ starts out as if you were watching a movie in the vein of ‘Se7en’, as we’re in a jail cell with Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), talking to his supposed friend who has just murdered somebody. But then we cut to earlier in the year, where the young Allen Ginsberg is heading out to college for the first time.
This is a difficult decision for Allen as his father Louis (David Cross, who has actually played Allen Ginsberg), wants his son to stay home and look after his unstable and schizophrenic mother Naomi (Jennifer Jason Leigh). But the two men decide that Allen must indeed ship off to Columbia for school, which Allen is clearly emotional about. During his orientation, an older student named Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a witty and very charismatic guy, leaps on the library desk and starts to shout out sexually explicit writings from Henry Miller. This piques the interest of Allen immediately.
In his poetry class, Allen comes head to head with his professor, which in turn piques the interest of Lucien, and the two become friends. Lucien then takes Allen under his sick and twisted wing, showing him the insane nightlife in New York, consisting of jazz clubs with sketchy characters, and a great deal of drugs. The two new friends head to an apartment party hosted by David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who seems to have an obsessive and unnatural interest in the young Lucien. But at this apartment, which is lined with old books, wine glasses, and drugs, Allen meets Burroughs (Ben Foster), who is first seen in a bathtub, fully clothed, inhaling nitrous oxide. A little later he is introduced to Kerouac, (Jack Huston), the older of the bunch who is charming and tough, and seems to have problems with his girlfriend Edie (Elizabeth Olsen), who in my opinion is not used to her full talent here.
Sooner than later, we see what Lucien’s real relationship with David really is about, and it isn’t pretty as Lucien’s mom (Kyra Sedgwick) explains it to us. But Allen is coming to terms with his who he is as well, as he begins to show feelings for Lucien, but soon learns that Lucien uses his charm and sex appeal to only get what he wants, and when he receives the attention, he moves onto the next "victim". This is noticed when we see both David and Allen both writing Lucien’s college essays for him, since he seems to not have any real talent of his own. Through this time, the four writers hit the town in a drug induced stupor, which Krokidas shows perfectly in a series of slow motion shots, with a fantasy element to it. And these drug-fueled nights send Allen banging away at the keyboard, even pleasuring himself while he is writing.
Some of the best parts of the film are seeing the four writers and friends being college kids. They laugh, drink, smoke, and even pull pranks. One of them resembles a scene from ‘Animal House’, as the four break into the Library at Columbia after dark with masks and flashlights to swap the iconic literature passages that are displayed in glass cases throughout the library with images of porn and death. It is here where Krokidas uses modern music to show that these ‘ahead of their’ time students have a rebellious side.
Also, Krokidas flawlessly constructs a sequence that coincides with the Riverside Park murder of Kammerer, as we see each character go through something similar. One of which has the famous wizard of Hogwarts ankles to ears in a compromising situation. But not only is this a movie about a murder, but about some of the most famous authors of our time, finding out who they are and who eventually they set out to be. It sure is one hell of a coming of age movie.
The actors all turn in amazing performances here with Radcliffe and DeHaan shining over the rest of them, as they have much more to work with. DeHaan gives Lucien so much magnetism and charm, that it’s hard not to like him, even though we shouldn’t. And we just want Allen to make the right decisions as Radcliffe always thinks twice about each choice he makes. I’m sure the talent that rounds out ‘Kill Your Darlings‘ will gain fans near and far through the years, and it deserves to.
'Kill Your Darlings' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The detail is very sharp and vivid throughout the entire film, making this movie set in the 1940s look magnificent. The closeups on the actor's faces are well-defined and crystal clear that shows individual hairs, scars, and makeup blemishes very nicely. The wider shots give the vintage clothing and props a lot of depth and realism, as if you're actually in the 40s.
The colors are beautiful, giving a very warm and earthy tone to the film with gorgeous browns, yellows, and oranges. The black levels are very deep and inky, which is great during the night time scenes. The skin tones are always natural and smooth. There were no specks of dirt or any other compression issues to speak of, making this a top notch video presentation.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, even during the acid trip scenes. The score and music sounds phenomenal throughout the surrounds with a soothing and at times chaotic jazz sound. During the first scene of the movie, there are some harsh noises of prison sirens and jail cell's closing that are robust and loud with some great directionality.
The dialogue is perfectly balanced in the center channel, with the ambient noises of the other students chattering, and clientele at parties getting drunk coming through the surrounds quite nicely. There are no pops, cracks, or hissing to speak of, making this a top notch audio presentation.
Audio Commentary with Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, director John Krokidas, and writer Austin Bunn - The four guys deliver a very informative commentary as they discuss the origins of the screenplay, the characters, the low budget they had, and some fun moments they had while filming. This is definitely worth listening to. There are optional sub-titles for the commentary track, which was cool.
Q & A with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn (HD, 66 mins) - Yes you read that right. This is over an hour long Q & A session where John and Austin sit in their living room and answer questions about the film that fans have written them over the last year. Any information you ever wanted about this film is answered here.
In Conversation with Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan (HD, 6 mins) - Jenelle Riley moderates a short conversation with Dane and Daniel about the film. They discuss how the project came up and their characters.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 8 mins) - There are seven deleted scenes in total, where a few of them are just extended scenes that show more character development. Some of them are quite funny, making these worth watching.
On The Red Carpet at the Toronto Film Festival (HD, 8 mins) - The cast and crew arrive at the Toronto Film Festival to screaming fans and photogs. There is also some intros from the cast and crew before the film starts at the fest.
Trailers (HD, 13 mins) - A trailer for the film as well as other movies.
'Kill Your Darlings' is one hell of a film that captures the famous beat poets in their early years in regard to one tragic event. The actors portray these real people to a tee and each give a set of performances for the ages. The writing, directing, and music are all incredible. The video and audio presentations are top notch with a good bit of extras. This film comes highly recommended.