“Kill Your Darlings”: A Portrait of the Ginsberg as a Young Potter

John Krokidas's Kill Your Darlings is 2013's second film based on the lives of the Beat poets, and though not without its flaws, it rises well above the low bar set by Walter Salles' similarly-themed On the Road. It helps that Darlings focuses on more interesting characters, specifically young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) arriving at Columbia University in the early 1940s, where he enters into a triangle with Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and his doomed benefactor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), binges on nitrous with William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and begins to find his voice as both a poet and a gay man. (Jack Kerouac eventually surfaces, but he's as boring as ever.) Darlings' cast members feel more willing to inhabit their roles without concern for their masculine images than the bros of On the Road, and Radcliffe is perfectly plausible as Ginsberg — while David Cross, who played the 1965-model Ginsberg in I'm Not There, is an inspired choice to play Ginsberg's father. And yet, for the pains Darlings takes to re-create the cool ambience of 1940s New York, the soundtrack choices are occasionally jarring; Bloc Party's “The Pioneers (M83 Remix)” could not feel more inappropriate in a world in which homosexual panic was considered a justifiable excuse to commit murder.

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