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Kill Your Darlings
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kill Your Darlings could potentially appeal to hardcore Harry Potter fans eager to see anything star Daniel Radcliffe does. But this is not an appropriate movie for young teen fans of The Boy Who Lived. It's a candid docudrama depicting the early friendship between Beat Generation poets Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac with Lucien Carr, who killed an older man who may or may not have been his lover. Graphic sex and substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes) are all heavily referenced or visible throughout the movie, as is strong language ("f--k," "a--hole," derogatory terms for Jewish people) and a murder that's shown with additional details throughout the movie. Mature high-schoolers who do see it will learn more about the Beat Poets, how they met, what they believed, and how interconnected their lives were both intellectually and romantically.
What's the story?
KILL YOUR DARLINGS follows not only the early days of the Beat Generation, but an ugly chapter in the chronicle of the Beats -- the involvement of young Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) in the murder of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), a much older man who was either his lover or a stalker. The drama is told from the perspective of young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), who enters Columbia University in New York City an aspiring poet but quickly loses interest in traditional education when he meets Carr, and via Carr, the drug-addled but legendary writers William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). Ginsberg, who is gay, and Carr, whose sexuality is ambiguous, experience the highs of mind-altering drugs, jazz music, and sexual awakening, but their friendship is tested when Carr is arrested for Kammerer's death.
Is it any good?
Filmmaker John Krokidas delivers an impressive feature debut with this well-acted exploration of the young Beats, before On the Road, before Howl. The film depicts them just as they were meeting and starting to develop their New Vision of literature and the arts. DeHaan is perfectly cast as golden-haired, golden-bred Midwesterner Carr, who despite being the initial glue between his Columbia classmate Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs, wasn't really a writer himself. A thinker and innovator and provocateur, yes, but as the movie reveals, he wasn't an artist.
Radcliffe does well as a foil to DeHaan's well-heeled WASPiness. Ginsberg is ever the outsider: a Jewish kid from Paterson, New Jersey, with no money and not much personal experience except for a mentally ill mother. The actors, as with the young men they portray, are wonderful contrasts: Radcliffe's Ginsberg a manic bundle of frenetic (drug-fueled) artistic energy and DeHaan the kind of actor who says so much with his eyes and the subtlest of gestures. Foster is fabulous as the perpetually high Burroughs, and Hall and Huston are memorable in their small but pivotal roles as Carr's obsessive friend-or-foe Kammerer and the handsome and bisexual Kerouac, respectively. Krokidas' drama doesn't follow these young artists for much time, but it does offer a fascinating take on the bizarrely interconnected lives of the Beats.
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