A biographical drama about the college days of legendary poets that made up the legendary Beat Generation, you say – starring Daniel Radcliffe as a young Allen Ginsberg, you say? An audacious debut then from first-timer John Krokidas; introducing us to Ginsberg as a wide-eyed yet contained individual, the burgeoning poet showcases inexperience at its most innocent when he wins a place at Columbia University. Ginsberg is forced to suppress his weighty parent issues (his mother suffered from depression, whilst the care of his father waned by the day).
Almost instantly, Ginsberg is enraptured by the rowdy behaviour elicited from fellow freshman Lucien Carr. Played with a serrated edginess, merged with splashes of exuberance, by Dane DaHaan (currently seen playing another incarnation of the troubled rich kid as The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Harry Osborn), credit due to Krokidas and co-writer Austin Bunn for crafting a multi-dimensional screenplay, enabling the two characters to develop a bond that exceeds what is seen on the screen.
Introductions to the remainder of team: Beat Generation, including Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs and Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston as On the Road author Jack Kerouac, aid in paving the way for numerous scenes which leave you tinged with the feeling you’ve just exited a drug-fuelled, jazz-inflected 1940s America. Yet much of the film’s heavy lifting relies upon the character of David Kammerer, a teacher and potential ex-lover of Carr’s, played by Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall. Where the screenplay flourishes here becomes murky with Kammerer’s obsessive nature niggling more than unnerving, proving as the film’s long term problem.
Krokidas puts his firm stamp on the coming-of-age tale, conveying the feeling you have probably learnt more about the Beat Generation and its comprising poets than if you’d picked up a book on the subject in your local library. Weighed down by a lack of flesh on much of the surrounding characters, you will walk away from Kill Your Darlings remembering it as the film where Daniel Radcliffe transcended The Boy Who Lived (and, thanks to a vibrant end credits sequence, probably humming The Libertines)