National Poetry Month: Review of “Kill Your Darlings”

April is National Poetry Month!

In light of this, this post is going to be a review of a poetry related movie that was released at the end of last year.

“Kill Your Darlings” is a brilliant introductory film into the hedonistic beginnings of the beats movement. Shot as a feature film by first-time director John Krokidas, it revolved around the leading figures during the early period of the movement, including Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, and a murder that haunted their relationship.

What made this movie enjoyable is simply because the beats poets are larger-than-life characters who led such colorful lives that they made for perfect screenplays. In particular, Allen Ginsberg, who penned “Howl,” one of the most widely read poems of the century, epitomized this period with his anti-establishment and counterculture attitudes he held throughout his professional and personal life.

In the movie, Ginsberg was played by none other than Daniel Radcliffe, though a side note for all Potterheads out there, be prepared his complete change as he sheds his goody two-shoes Harry Potter role for a pill popping and chain smoking artist.

It was radical and refreshing to see Radcliffe in this role since his image as Harry Potter is seared into many of our minds, and he did sufficiently to convince me that he has matured as an actor. His portrayal of Ginsberg as a fresher at Columbia University and his subsequent coming-of-age struggles were well-executed, even though as properly described by The Independent, “he seems far too sprightly for the role.” And of course, gay scenes are abound given that Ginsberg was a lifelong advocate of gay rights.

The biggest selling point of “Kill Your Darlings” though would be the chemistry between Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, who played Lucien Carr in the movie. Ginsberg and Carr first met in college and it was Carr who introduced him to Jack Kerouac and others who would later be part of the beats generation.

On screen, the pairing of Radcliffe and DeHaan made the show shine with their rapport that injected much life and soul to the film. Watching the duo tear up books and declaring their ‘New Vision’ of doing away with the traditional rhyme and metrics, their vivacious performance captured the liberating and experimental mood of the beats movement that sought to free our caged minds from the shackles of tradition and antiquity.

After the movie ended, all I wanted to do was to be plugged in with Ginsberg and his hypnotic voice as he read his own poem “Howl.” Give it a listen:

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