Front Row at the Movies
“Kill Your Darlings,”
More Than a Murder
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
“Kill Your Darlings” is more than a movie about death, drugs, and homosexuality. In it, director John Krokidas traces the origins of three prominent poets just before World War II.
As founders of the so-called Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were not only breaking the rules of literary and poetic structure, they were intent on breaking the rules of society as well.
As one moviegoer observed, “It is not easy to tell what the plot is all about, and I don’t think it is useful to try anyway. Summarizing it can only do injustice to the complex, shifting relationships between the main characters.”
So we won’t try.
We’ll leave it to the studio’s succinct synopsis: “A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the Beat Generation …”
Allen Ginsberg met Lucien Carr in a poetry class at Columbia. The handsome young Carr introduced his new friend to Burroughs, Kerouac, and a former teacher named David Kammerer. They all shared a vision of rebelling against the “fascist notions of meter and rhyme.”
At the age of 14 Carr had met Kammerer, an English teacher at Washington University. Kammerer had been a childhood friend of William Burroughs. As young men they had traveled together, enjoying the nightlife of gay Paree (pun intended). Burroughs described his pal as “always very funny, the veritable life of the party, and completely without any middle-class morality.”
Kammerer became infatuated with the handsome young Carr. It led to his murder.
Michael C. Hall (TV’s “Dexter”) portrays the victim. Dane DeHaan (“Lincoln”) serves as the killer.
They are surrounded by Daniel Radcliffe (the “Harry Potter” movies) as Ginsberg; Jack Huston (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”) as Kerouac; and Ben Foster (“The Messenger”) as Burroughs. You also get to see Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, David Cross, John Cullum, and Kyra Sedgwick in passing.
“Kill Your Darlings” is showing at the Tropic Cinema. Despite the murder plot, this is very much Daniel Radcliffe’s movie. As another moviegoer observed: “This is proof that there is an acting life for Daniel Radcliffe after Harry Potter.”
As for the movie’s title, here’s one takeaway: David Kammerer dies. And while Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac went on to fame as poets and writers, Lucien Carr spent his later years working as an editor for United Press International, cranking out bland news releases ... a form of literary death.