About the Post

Author Information

Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Janna Does TIFF: Kill Your Darlings

At the base of the movie poster, the tagline reads, “A true story of obsession and murder.” And while murder is the climactic basis for this story of the Beat generation, it’s the different natures of obsession coupled with strong performances that give Kill Your Darlings its legs and a reason to watch.

Kill Your Darlings tells the story of the intellectual, recreational, and sexual exploits of Allan Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and others from the Beat poets in the early 1940s. Directed by newcomer John Krokidas, it stars Daniel Radcliffe as Allan Ginsberg, and also features riveting performances from Dane DeHaan, Michael C Hall, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, and Elizabeth Olsen.

Credit Killer Films

The theme of obsession is presented almost immediately, as we see Allan Ginsberg focused and determined, prepared to leave his own troubled family members behind to follow his dream of attending Columbia University. And once he arrives, he discovers a whole new world of tempting obsessions – literature, drugs, music, rebellion. But the strongest temptation is Lucien Carr, a fellow student who acts as a gateway into this new world of sin, and is unlike anyone Ginsberg has ever met before. As the story progresses and we’re introduced to other poets, to other situations and to an obsessed disgraced professor by the name of David Kammerer, we come to see how obsession can burrow roots, take hold, and ultimately, destroy.

While the setting, the period costumes, and the music all breathe life into the story, the main reason to see Kill Your Darlings is for the performances. Daniel Radcliffe proves to be more than just a boy wizard as Allan Ginsberg – with a solid American accent and a wide-eyed wonder, he’s well worth the watch as the audience’s entry point into the story and these characters. But it’s relative newcomer Dane DeHaan who steals the show with his riveting performance as Lucien Carr. He oozes danger and sexuality, his performance teeming with unpredictability, and it’s easy to see why Ginsberg would be drawn to this intoxicating character. Ginsberg’s eyes rarely leave Carr, and the audience’s won’t, either.

Credit Killer Films

There are some fantastic scenes in the film – a midnight library raid and a drunken kiss on the side of a river are two standouts – but overall, the entire Beat lifestyle comes off as a little romanticized. While the 1944 murder on which the film touches is fascinating and something little-explored in Beat Generation media, everything else feels a little conventional. There are no real surprise twists and turns, no shocking character revelations, and the story focuses so much on male bravado and the feeling of being invincible that touches so many in their twenties that the whole thing can sometimes be a little cringe-worthy. The film takes its characters just as seriously as the characters take themselves, and there are moments where you can’t help but want to roll your eyes at their grandstanding. It would have been nice to see more focus on the murder itself and the surrounding fallout, instead of it having been almost tacked on as a shocking afterthought. And more screen time for the extremely underused Elizabeth Olsen would only have been a welcome addition.

The complex dynamic between Allan Ginsberg and Lucien Carr, and the 1944 murder in Riverside Park, are fascinating elements of the Beat Generation not often depicted in media, and are welcome elements to the story. It just would have been nice if Kill Your Darlings had really allowed itself to focus on those things, instead of getting so caught up in the endless posturing and postulating of the Beats themselves.

RATING: B-

Kill Your Darlings received mixed reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is being released in a variety of countries all over the world over the next few months.

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