Kill Your Darlings
dir John Krokidas
scr John Krokidas, Austin Bunn
prd Michael Benaroya, Rose Ganguzza, John Krokidas, Christine Vachon
with Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, Michael C Hall, David Cross, Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgwick, John Cullum, David Rasche, Craig Chester
release US 18.Oct.13, UK 6.Dec.13
13/US 1h44
Kill Your Darlings
Bright young things: DeHaan and Radcliffe

foster huston hall
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Kill Your Darlings Based on a shocking true story about celebrities before they were famous, this dark drama is strikingly written, directed and acted to recount a series of unnerving events while evoking a mood that would later grow into a movement. It's a clever approach to a complex group of artists, even if it feels somewhat mannered.

In 1943, Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) energetically begins his studies at Columbia in New York, encouraged by his poet father (Cross) and needy mother (Leigh). On campus he becomes fast friends with anarchic writer Lucien Carr (DeHaan), whose special "friend" David (Hall) is actually writing all of his coursework. As Allen hangs out and indulges in alcohol and drugs with the intense William Burroughs (Foster) and the athletic womaniser Jack Kerouac (Huston), Allen's own coursework starts slipping. But maybe that has to happen if he wants to be true to his own inner voice.

The title refers to the literary advice that you must get rid of the people closest to you in order to become yourself artistically. But of course, there's another meaning here, as Lucien's relationship with David takes a fatal twist. Filmmaker Krokidas captures this with a swirling atmosphere of dark indulgence that emphasises the wealthy, stylish side of these characters. Everyone looks terrific, even when they're passed out in a gutter. And even the messiest rooms have an art-directed beauty to them.

Cinematographer Reed Morano captures dark textures and muted colours, keeping the camera mainly in close-up. This helps maintain Allen's perspective, and Radcliffe's sharp performance helps us forget that Ginsberg's spectacles are eerily reminiscent of a certain boy wizard's. Foster and Huston are terrific in expressive roles opposite him, and DeHaan is utterly mesmerising as Lucien, rightfully the focus of the other characters' (and our) attention.

In the end, it's somewhat frustrating that we never quite see the iconic figures these men would grow into; we only see the seeds of their genius. And frankly the three female roles (including Olsen as Jack's thankless girlfriend and Sedgwick as Lucien's too-glamorous mum) feel irrelevant. But forget who these guys would become and the film becomes a bracingly involving story of camaraderie and burgeoning artistic sensibilities that indeed feel strong enough to change the world.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 25.Jun.13

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