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Kill Your Darlings' Jittery Beatnik Breakdown

KILL YOUR DARLINGS Mudblood brothers.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS Mudblood brothers.

WHILE SEEING HARRY POTTER lose his butt virginity does offer a certain fascination, there's little else to recommend about Kill Your Darlings, the generally terrible new film from first-time director John Krokidas that describes a pivotal event in the formation of the Beat movement.

In 1944, a Columbia undergrad named Lucien Carr murdered his former Boy Scout leader, 33-year-old David Kammerer, and then dumped the body in the Hudson River, claiming self-defense against a violent pederast. Before going to police, Carr told his friends Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs about the crime; they were subsequently arrested as accessories.

It's an incredible story (check out the 2012 New York Times article "Where Death Shaped the Beats" for the full account), but here it's rewritten as fan fiction in which handsome, brilliant young men yawp barbarically all over Manhattan.

Kill Your Darlings juxtaposes Carr's crime against the early days of the Beats, blaring jazz while Ginsberg, Carr, Kerouac, and Burroughs sweat out the details of a bold new aesthetic philosophy. Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) is nervous, closeted, and utterly in thrall to Carr (Dane DeHaan), a handsome Slytherin with a cool disregard for authority who charms Ginsberg by jumping on a table in the middle of the Columbia University library and reciting Henry Miller. Carr's sexual orientation remains ambiguous, but Ginsberg is smitten, and so is the much older Kammerer (Michael C. Hall, Hufflepuff), whose sexual relationship with Carr is strongly implied, and who grows increasingly menacing as the film progresses.

There's an embarrassingly besotted quality to Kill Your Darlings; filmmaker Krokidas tries to pin down youth's pretty butterflies, and ends up a sweaty lepidopterist with dusty thumbprints on his glasses. The events that the film chronicles are fascinating, but Kill Your Darlings is too jittery and romanticized to do the material justice.

Kill Your Darlings
Rated R · 102 minutes · 2013
Director: John Krokidas
Producer: Christine Vachon, Michael Benaroya, Rose Ganguzza, John Krokidas, Joe Jenckes, Stefan Sonnenfeld, Jared Goldman and Pamela Koffler
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, David Cross, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Jennifer Leigh and Elizabeth Olsen

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