Kill Your Darlings @ The Ross

Allan Ginsburg (Daniel Radcliffe)

Allan Ginsburg (Daniel Radcliffe)

I am not going to talk about how an ivy league education is wasted on a bunch of privileged boys who are so bored out of their minds that their only recourse is tearing up a library of classics. Nor am I going to salivate over this group who is considered to have ushered in a most celebrated time in literary history: The Beat Poets. In John Krokidas’s film Kill Your Darlings, they are not literary rebels; rather, they are reckless, if not, wayward hollow wannabees who are angst ridden over their sexuality, momma and poppa, and their wealth. They’re just … there.

I will ask a question, however: Just where is the beat in Kill Your Darlings?

Set in 1944 and moving between Paterson, New Jersey, Harlem, and Manhattan, Krokidas closes in on the early life of men who defined the Beat generation: Lucien Carr (played by Dane DeHaan), Allan Ginsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe), William Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). They are not very interesting young men, and you wonder how they could carry on a conversation; rather, Krokidas dramatizes them as students in search of some kind of purpose while others are fighting for equality in America and are across the pond fighting for democracy.

Ginsberg and Kerouac (Jack Huston) in New York

Ginsberg and Kerouac (Jack Huston) in New York

Ginsberg lives in Paterson, New Jersey with his mentally unstable mother and his father Louis Ginsberg, a published poet. He leaves for Columbia University, and there, he meets Carr, Burroughs, Kerouac, and more exposure to anti-semitism. Radcliffe carries well the existential load in this movie, and his Ginsberg is bookish and awkward but a young man who burrows his way through this bohemian world filled with drugs, sex, liquor, and, of course, school suspensions.

Let me answer my own question, Where’s the Beat? The Beat is in the murder of David Kammerer, Lucien Carr’s longtime lover. Michael C. Hall—you remember him from HBO’s Six Feet Under)– wonderfully fleshes out Kammerer, the jilted lover whose desperation for the young Carr leads to a fatal struggle between the two. The Kammerer-Carr affair, murder, and trial are the pulses of film and complement its title: Kammerer indeed is the darling that is killed.

Oh, by the way, Kill the Darlings, a command for writers to do away with ‘extraneous ornament’, is largely attributed to the novelist William Faulkner; but research reveals the command belongs to British Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, who, in his 1914 Cambridge lecture “On Style,” said, ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings!’

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