Bill Goodykoontz, writing last month, in the Arizona Republic: “You wouldn’t want “Kill Your Darlings” to be the only information you ever get about the Beats. But it’s a decent introduction for the uninitiated, [caveats here] and interesting enough to those who know the story”.
Here’s an update, since our last installment, of “Kill Your Darlings” reviews –
“”Kill Your Darlings” treats the future Beats not as mythical figures but as hedonistic young misfits with a passion for literature. (John) Krokidas, who co-wrote the screenplay with Austin Bunn, does not sentimentalize the period, but vivifies it, making Ginsberg’s struggles and personal discoveries feel immediate. While it might have been nice to have a closer approximation of Allen Ginsberg’s actual accent and mannerisms on screen, (Daniel) Radcliffe gives a strong performance. What he does not convey through speech, he shows with his body, shifting from rigid to limber as Ginsberg’s life experience and self-confidence grow. The acting is strong all around, but Ben Foster steals the shows as a supremely debauched (William S) Burroughs.”
Ben Foster’s Burroughs seems to have a lot of fans, but a number of reviewers give kudos to the entire cast. Here’s Colin Covert in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“The casting is wonderful. (Dane) DeHaan is condescending, sensitive, pretend-brilliant and deeply insecure as the Salieri to Radcliffe’s Mozart. Ben Foster is the martini-dry Burroughs incarnate, from the scratchy, atonal speaking voice to the air of genteel depravity that the wealthy drug connoisseur radiated. (Jack) Huston has the young (Jack) Kerouac’s gridiron-star charisma, and Elizabeth Olsen is tart in her fleeting appearance as his neglected, put-upon fiancée.”
The performance of Daniel Radcliffe is the lynch-pin, of course. Covert again:
“Radcliffe rings true on every note, capturing the insecurity of a kid from small-town New Jersey and the mad exhilaration of a writer possessed by angelic voices.”
And Calvin Wilson in the St Louis Dispatch (on Radcliffe’s “intriguing” performance”:
“Although the former Harry Potter doesn’t quite do for Ginsberg what Philip SeymourHoffman did for Truman Capote [sic], he comes admirably close.”
The difficulty of portraying a writer on film (not to mention, portraying writing) is undeniably a challenge. As Connie Oglein the Miami Herald writes:
“Dramatizing a passion for the written word on film can be tricky, but in his feverish “Kill Your Darlings”, first-time director John Krokidas brings creative desire to life with vigor and emotion.”
Mike Scott in the New Orleans Times-Picayune is less sympathetic:
“Krokidas seems more intent on setting a mood than telling a story, and in creating a feeling than building suspense. That’s not to say his film is one of those opaque, willfully artsy films that seem to follow the Beats around. Rather, it’s just unfocused. One could argue that it’s fitting. This is a film about a poet, after all, a breed of writer that is all about setting a tone. Still, tone-setting by itself doesn’t necessarily make for riveting viewing. As a result, “Kill Your Darlings” ends up being a bit of a slow-go, particularly for a murder mystery”.
Scott found it, “a touch schizophrenic” – “..at times a coming-of-age story, a love story, a crime drama and a literary drama. It’s hard to say which it functions as best, as none are given too much time to germinate before Krokidas moves on to the next.”
Moira Macdonald in the Seattle Times agrees. While praising, “a promising beginning” (“Daniel Radcliffe, playing the young Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings” wonderfully captures a particular moment in a young person’s life”), the movie, she feels, “too soon gets muddled”.
Maybe its multiplicity, its complexity, its “muddled” nature, is part of its charm? (Dane Dehaan as Lucien Carr memorably declares “I like complicated”)
“Kill Your Darlings” is a love story more than it is a history lesson, albeit one that declaims the likes of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Whitman over rose-tinted sentimentalists like, say, E.E. Cummings and Hallmark. The film’s love for its subjects is mirrored in their passionate frenzy for words, and language – spoken, written, body – in general.”
He clearly enjoyed the film – “It captures the fizzy frisson of the new, before it became shocking – It’s a gas, a hoot, and a tragedy all in one.”…
“Above all, and what sets it (“Kill Your Darlings”) apart from other cinematic takes on the Beatified,”, he concludes, ” is how much fun it is. It may end in tears, but then, don’t all great love stories?”