Weather Updates

‘Kill Your Darlings’: Daniel Radcliffe convincing as Allen Ginsberg


Allen Ginsberg Daniel Radcliffe

Lucien Carr Dane DeHaan

David Kammerer Michael C. Hall

Jack Kerouac Jack Huston

William S. Burroughs Ben Foster

Sony Pictures Classics presents a film directed by John Krokidas and written by Krokidas and Austin Bunn. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content, language, drug use and brief violence). Opens Friday at Landmark Century Cinema and CineArts 6 in Evanston.

Updated: December 2, 2013 11:06AM

For innovation, outrageousness and passion, few movements can beat the Beats.

And “Kill Your Darlings” is the latest and the most compelling of the recent movies about Allen Ginsberg, one of the group of iconoclastic writers who hit the scene in the 1950s. Far more coherent than last year’s aimless “On the Road” and more sharply focused than 2010’s “Howl,” it centers on a youthful Ginsberg finding his artistic voice.

Set against the backdrop of World War II, this tale — part murder mystery, part coming-of-age story, part intellectual disquisition of a socio-literary movement — features Ginsberg as a rapturous Columbia University freshman yearning to write inventive poetry free from the strictures of literary classicism. In equal measure it focuses on Ginsberg (nimbly played by Daniel Radcliffe) as he explores his burgeoning sexuality, eager to transcend the limitations of a homophobic society.

As much as it’s about Ginsberg’s artistic and emotional growth, the story chronicles a dark chapter in which Ginsberg’s close friend Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) is implicated in a gruesome murder.

Despite his lack of physical resemblance to the poet, Radcliffe’s confident portrayal is notable for its vitality and range. He superbly conveys Ginsberg’s sensitive nature and tortured sexuality.

DeHaan smolders with seductive charm as Carr, the rebel who introduces Ginsberg to subversive artistic expression, wild parties, drugs and sex. The chemistry between him and Radcliffe is evident. But lurking in the shadows is David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), Carr’s lovelorn “guardian angel” whose affection has evolved into a deranged obsession.

Also part of their circle is William S. Burroughs, played with just the right degree of bizarreness by Ben Foster, and Jack Kerouac, who is given life, though only sporadically, by Jack Huston.

Ginsberg is seeking escape from a troubled family life. His poet father Louis (David Cross) has institutionalized his mentally unbalanced mother Naomi (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and she looks to her son to protect her.

Though he’s inexorably drawn to Carr, Ginsberg’s story is as much about casting off the shackles of his middle-class upbringing as it is about sexual awakening.

When Ginsberg’s mother calls, begging him to rescue her, he cryptically describes his mission to Carr as “complicated.” Carr responds: “I love complicated.”

And so, apparently, does director and co-writer John Krokidas. “Kill Your Darlings” never shies from complicated matters, letting creativity vie with emotional upheaval, and exposing the contradictions and complex facets of human attraction.

Gannett News Service

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.