DVD Review - Kill Your Darlings

Ben Foster (left), Daniel Radcliffe and
Dane DeHaan (right) in "Kill Your Darlings"
The opening of this film features Michael C. Hall, the star of the TV series Dexter, who plays David Kammerer, at worst a pedophile and at best a gay, lovesick stalker, with Dane DeHaan who plays Lucien Carr, the once, teenage object of David's affection. In that opening, Lucien has mortally wounded David and is now dumping David's bloody body in the East River of New York City. Ironically, this opening is what I wanted the ending of Dexter to be, merely replace Lucien Carr with Debra Morgan or Hannah McKay. Despite that, I wish this film hadn't opened with this scene. Yes, it's based on a true story, which most older audiences who are familiar with the Beat Generation would already know, but I can't help but feel that the movie spoils itself with this opening.

Intrinsically, it doesn't matter because this film isn't about Lucien Carr. I wish it was, but it's not. This movie is about Allen Ginsberg, the famous poet, played by Daniel Radcliffe, the once and former Harry Potter. Radcliffe plays Allen during his days at Columbia University in the mid-1940s. I don't know why but I couldn't help but think of Harry going to Hogwarts and having his eyes opened to this new world, as Allen arrives at Columbia and has his eyes opened to the culture there and to the larger-than-life presence that was Lucien Carr.

For those who don't know, the Beat Generation were a group of artists, mainly writers, who in the wake of World War II adopted radical or rebellious ideas. The three men who are regarded as the leaders of this Beat Generation were Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. All three met and become friends in 1943 when Allen was a freshman and all three were introduced to each other by Lucien Carr. The three would then be further and forever bonded when all three helped Lucien after he murdered David Kammerer by stabbing on the night of August 13, 1944.

Lucien's life and all the interesting things that led up to his committing murder are not anything in which director and co-writer John Krokidas is interested. This film is rather interested more in Allen's crazy mother, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, or a prank where the boys break into a library and swap books, or the possible romantic feelings Allen might have had for Lucien. None of which are more interesting than Lucien's life and all the things that led up to his committing murder. Except, the film decides to focus on all the things besides the meatiest, which it then ultimately sweeps over.

Quite frankly, this shouldn't have been Allen Ginsberg's story. It shouldn't have been told from Allen's point-of-view. It is neither compelling nor is Radcliffe the actor to propel that which isn't compelling. This movie should have been all about Michael C. Hall and Dane DeHaan. They are far more illuminating and electric on screen, either together or separately.

With Ben Foster on screen as William S. Burroughs, this was a kind of Six Feet Under reunion, only this time Foster and Hall get more scenes together. Foster is a vastly better actor than Radcliffe, and since, according to history, William and David were childhood friends, I would have preferred more of the narrative devoted to the relationship between them, rather than Radcliffe making eyes at DeHaan.

The end of the film does something weird. It suggests that David wanted Lucien to kill him. Lucien's actual defense in court was one of murder out of self-defense, or what was referred to as a "honor slaying," but the filmmaker here re-frames the incident as a kind of mercy killing. It's certainly more poetic to think David died for love and Lucien killed for love, inferring a kind of nobility to the whole thing.

But, this is perhaps the wrong tone. It makes the ending a beautiful tragedy, when the reality is probably uglier. As was said, at best David was a stalker. At worst, he was a pedophile. There have been plenty of positive and healthy, gay relationships where there was an age gap of 14 years or more. The relationship between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy is an example, but that was reciprocal. The relationship between David and Lucien was not that, and we don't get that here.

To see better movies that involve and deal with the darker tints between a younger gay man and an older one, watch the films of Rob Moretti, i.e. Crutch (2004) and Truth (2014).

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for sexual content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 42 mins.


Popular Posts