BY EMILY GAGNE
Fellow fille Danita may have said it best when she described Kill Your Darlings in a post-screening text as “Dead Poets Society for badasses.” Except that in Dead Poets Society, there was a positive older male role model. And he didn’t get brutally murdered.
You might be saying, I’m going to kill YOU, Emily Darling, for spoiling the big twist of Kill Your Darlings. But the ending isn’t really its draw. The film is based on an actual murder case from 1944, which saw a group of young male writers (Daniel Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan’s Lucien Carr, Ben Foster’s William Burroughs and Richard Huston’s Jack Kerouac) wrapped up in the death of an obsessive older man (Michael C. Hall of Dexter). And, really, the point of the film is to explore the dramatic events — drugs and drinks and bromances that might be something more! — that lead up to that pivotal moment.
Kill Your Darlings specifically focuses in on Ginsberg as he heads to university and finally finds a crowd that can understand him and his way with words, and take him away from the clutches of his mentally unsound mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and hard-to-take father (a strangely not strange David Cross). There are plenty of crackling coming-of-age type scenes, with a spectacle-clad Radcliffe awkwardly navigating beat parties and bars while trying not to make eyes at Lucien and other boys. There’s even a part which involves tricking an easy girl into breaking into a library (as I said, this is all very much Dead Poets Society stuff.) While these moments are certainly fun to watch and played rather gamely by all the boys involved, they take away time from developing and explaining the relationship between Lucien and Hall’s David Kammerer.
I would have liked to have a better understanding of the deep-seeded motivations behind Kammerer’s killing before the credits rolled on Kill Your Darlings. Some flashback moments help fill in a few pieces near the end, but they aren’t as informative as they could be, only giving you hints to Kammerer and Carr’s past before flashing back to the present. Perhaps the director — feature first-timer John Krokidas — just wanted to pique our interest in the subject matter, which he is incredibly fascinated in. But considering that he spent a decade trying to get this film made, it’s also reasonable to expect a bit more historical detail.
The upside to Krokidas waiting ten years to get Kill Your Darlings on screen is that he got to cast Radcliffe, DeHaan and Hall in the leads. Although we don’t get to see nearly enough of Hall as we should, his scenes are captivating, as he plays Kammerer disturbingly over-the-top, making him appear the perfect cross between Dexter and David Fisher, his character on Six Feet Under (Krokidas actually said he wrote the role with Hall in mind after seeing that HBO series). And most people will speak to Radcliffe’s fairly graphic gay sex scene, but I think his emotionally intimate moments with DeHaan are more worthy of typing on about.
We know the real Carr and Ginsberg ended their relationship on a very sharp period, but I have a feeling Kill Your Darlings is just an ellipsis when it comes to Radcliffe and DeHann’s careers kicks, together and apart.