Kill Your Darlings is perhaps one of the most literary of all the movies to screen at TIFF, which is extremely interesting, because it is itself not based on a book, play, short story, poem.
The movie sings a choir of glorious voices. It is a paean to the power of the book, but yet it calls out to destroy old masters, in essence to “Kill Your Darlings”, and proclaim a new revolution of words.
The movie itself has such a great sense of style, pronouncing itself so grandly in the first few minutes, which actually take place near the end of the story, (note to audience goers: show up early for this film, as the aesthetic will capture your attention right away. Be seated, show up, read the book! Strangely, the less-known about the story coming into this film, perhaps the better. It pronounces its presence with the based on a true story, and for once, the less-loosely based on reality this story becomes, almost the better. Reject formal rhyme and embrace Walt Whitman!
Allen Ginsberg, a New York Jew is somehow, miraculously, embodied by Daniel Radcliffe. Dane DeHaan is perhaps less of a revelation as Radcliffe’s friend and possible lover Lucien Carr, but at least I can somewhat see the appeal. Not quite as fascinating, but still effective, are Michael C. Hall as a sort of David / Dexter hybrid as David Kammerer, a whole-faced Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac, a comically deadpan Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, and an almost entirely unrecognizable Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Radcliffe’s troubled mother, Naomi Ginsberg.
Kill Your Darlings is best when Radcliffe as Ginsberg is let loose upon his desire to write, to experiment with drugs, to experience all forms of sexuality, to awaken from a slumber and let loose upon New York City in the 1940’s.
Though the story chugs along at an extremely rapid 95 minutes, and scenes of Michael C. Hall whimpering around Dane DeHaan get fairly repetitive, and threaten to derail the momentum. But the film takes an abrupt turn around the time that the opening scene starts to regain focus, and suddenly, the alternate reality of Kill Your Darlings slowly starts to come into focus.
Like I said before, do as little research as possible before seeing this movie. Then, after John Krokidas and Austin Bunn’s vision is unleashed upon you, return to the book.