Kill Your Darlings
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster and Jack Huston
screenplay by John Krokidas and Austin Bunn
directed by John Krokidas
This is a biographical drama about the World War Two-era college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation, their interactions, and a killing that took place. Specifically Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and the murder victim David Kammerer. All real people and real events. It is set in the English department of Columbia University in New York City. Ginsberg met Lucien Carr who introduced him to Kerouac, Burroughs and others. They were precocious in that annoying freshman way, rebellious and into alcohol and drug experimentation. The great works of the Beat writers, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) and Ginsberg’s Howl (1956) were still a decade in the future. I read On the Road. I loved it and I should like to re-read it, but I don’t quite feel like it yet. I also read The Dharma Bums (1958) but didn’t appreciate it. And I tried reading Howl but couldn’t really dig it. Maybe because I’m not cool. Well, I’m cool enough not to be a drunken, drug abusing, murdering twit. I never tried reading Burroughs’ masterworks Naked Lunch (1959) and Junkie (1953) because Burroughs was little more than a pampered, drug addicted, criminal asshole. I don’t want to waste my time.
Their lives - at least their early, college lives - were a vortex of jealousy, obsession and murder - and a little academic study. Read a little of their biographies and you quickly learn that rather than being enlightened beings pushing the boundaries of consciousness, beauty, discovery and art they were, in fact, marginal, spotty, itinerant drug addicts having orgies. Pretty creepy, too. Just look at William S. Burroughs. Tall, thin, short haircut, preppy suits and sweaters, heavy black horn-rimmed glasses. He looks more like an accountant or a banker than a revolutionary literary genius. He creeps me out. And Guinsberg at the height of his career just looked fat and slothful.
The point of the Beats was their rejection of/rebellion against smothering, destructive social conformity. I get that and I agree. It’s just that a closer look at their own personal lives reveals them to be not nice people - which is often the case with celebrities, isn’t it?
I admire Daniel Radcliffe for trying new roles. But Kill Your Darlings was awful. Maybe because the Beat characters in it were awful people, or maybe because it is John Krokidas’ feature film directorial debut and he is still learning.