"Another lover hits the universe. The circle is broken. But with death comes rebirth. And like all lovers and sad people, I am a poet."
I knew nothing about Kill Your Darlings going into this movie (which means I basically don't know anything about modern American literature because apparently these guys were famous poets that influenced their generation during the 50's with their literary work). Known today as the Beat generation, they basically rejected the moral standards imposed at the time and innovated in style while experimenting with drugs and sex. Many films based on their work have been adapted for for the big screen (Howl, On the Road, and Naked Lunch), but I haven't seen them, so I actually went into this film without knowing anything about these writers. The film serves as an introduction as to how these writers came together and influenced one another during their teenage years, and it is told from Allen Ginsberg's point of view. This biographical drama/thriller may not be entirely factual, but it is still a fascinating story, and once the film ended it made me want to know about who these people were. The film's main attraction is the excellent chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan who give excellent performances (and after a while you actually forget Radcliffe is Harry Potter). The supporting cast is also strong, including Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, and Jack Huston. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Olsen, but in this film her character wasn't given much to work with, but it makes sense considering the Beat generation is a male dominated movement. It ended up influencing the hippie movement in the 60's and popular rock bands like The Beatles. This film only focuses on the early stages of their lives, but it shows how these artists came to know each other and how Lucien Carr was the most influential figure in their formation.
The screenplay was co-written by director John Krokidas and Austin Bunn focusing on the early stages of Alan Ginsberg's (Daniel Radcliffe) life as he began studying at Columbia University which shaped his philosophical views on life. The turning point in his life was when he met his classmate, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) who taught him to question the orthodox methods of the school and introduced him to other future icons of the Beat generation: William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). Together they would hang out in night clubs exploring new literary ideas and basically rediscovering themselves. They were against moral boundaries and explored with drugs and sex. Alan and some of the others also dealt with their homosexuality, while some tried to hide it. Lu also introduced Alan to one of his mentors, David Krammerer (Michal C. Hall), who was obsessed with Lu and ultimately led to a tragic event.
The film succeeds mostly because of the great performances from the young cast and because it is actually an intriguing story. John Krokidas isn't a director I was familiar with, but he does a decent job with this film. The film does have a believable 40's style and it stays true to the period. It is really well paced as well and it begins to get more interesting once the crime takes place. Unfortunately the film does lack some structure and at times I felt like it was wandering off. The scenes with Allen's mother never were explored much, but we understand how it affected his life and his relationship with his father. The characters are sometimes a bit too clever and don't feel real at times. Still, I was engaged with this film thanks to the material which is very interesting and I enjoyed the performances very much. The film is ambiguous at times, but that is what will leave you thinking and wanting to learn more about these characters at the end. It is all over the place at times, but I was drawn in to the story and for a biopic it gets the job done.