In 1944 the aspiring poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and his university friends Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), Keruac Jack (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) are suspected of murdering David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). John Krokidas' debut film is ambitious, energetic, jazzy and incredibly well cast.
Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), son of a poet, is accepted at New York's Columbia University in 1944. He quickly befriends Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) from his literature course. Lucien would like to start a revolutionary movement, but he has no talented at all to write. This is one reason why Lucien surrounds himself with budding writers like Jack Keruac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). This group of young students refuses to be limited by existing norms of society. So under the moniker "The New Vision" they experiment with drugs, sexuality and new forms of poetry.
However, Lucien has another problem: David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), a former professor who works as a janitor to be near Lucien, who he is in love with. And once Lucien returned that affection. Now he would like to ditch David, but he still depends on David, who writes his university papers. When David is found drowned, Lucien, Jack and William are the suspects of his murder - and Allen is the only one who could save Lucien from going to jail...
"Kill Your Darlings" caused quite a stir at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival as well as in Venice, as Daniel Radcliffe, who at the moment is one of the highest-paid actor in Hollywood due to the "Harry Potter" series, tries to rid himself of the image of the sorcerer's apprentice. Although the Potter glasses are quite similar to the ones of Ginsberg, one must say that Radcliffe really succeeds in doing so – and not just because of the gay sex scene.
Of course, it is always interesting for actors to mimic such personalities as the Beat poets. Therefore a spectacular squad of successful (young) stars has rallied here, e.g. Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall ("Dexter", "Six Feet Under"), Jack Huston ("Eclipse - The Twilight Saga"), Ben Foster ("X -Men - The Last Rebellion"), Dane DeHaan ("Chronicle", "Lincoln", "Metallica - Through The Never") and Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the Olsen twins. They all convince with either very authentic (Foster) or very intense (DeHaan) representations.
It's even more impressive when it is taken into consideration that "Kill Your Darlings" is a quite small indie film debut, and co-producer John Krokidas for the first time helms a long film after only a few short films, which he shot over 12 years ago. But the remarkable script that Krokidas wrote with Austin Bunn, who he shared a flat with at university, is based on true events in the life of the great Beat poets and was convincing enough. As is the finished film.
Jazz played a special role for the Beat Generation because of the particular rhythms and harmonies. Hence it's not surprising that jazz music is used heavily in "Darlings", too. It will however be even more exciting, when audiences notice that the circular narrative and the editing created a very unique and jazzy narrative rhythm. This is one of the great achievements of the film. Then again, the filmmakers contrast this with anachronistic modern music, such as "Wolf Like Me" by TV on the Radio or the M83 remix of Bloc Party's "The Pioneers". This develops enormous emotional power in the corresponding moments.
The film is intended for a general audience, even though several of the Beat poets were gay or bisexual, and the unrequited love of Kammerer for Carr as well as Ginsberg's affection for Carr are the impellents of the film plot. But love, desire and poetry are universal and shouldn't scare anyone off. "Darlings" introduces the sexual orientations of its protagonists completely unobtrusive, almost casually. But for some Radcliffe's first (and quite short) homosexual sex scene might even be an incentive to watch Krokidas' movie.
Although the film is artistically sophisticated, and also some of Ginsberg's family problems are included, the pranks and experiments of the students provide for some thrilling and brisk sequences. In any case, "Kill Your Darlings" has little to do with the other beat films lately, neither the Keruac film "On the Road" (which has not the same force as the original novel) nor the very artistic Ginsberg film "Howl" with James Franco. "Darlings" is a moving crime drama with lyrical and musical impact, and it is probably one of the most interesting indie films of the year.
After being shown at Sundance, Venice and Toronto Film Festival, "Kill Your Darlings" had its German premiere in October 2013 at Filmfest homochrom in Cologne and Dortmund.
The events depicted in "Kill Your Darlings" were written down by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs in the autobiographical novel "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks" in 1945, but it took 63 years until the book was finally published in 2008.