1944, by a confluence of fate, the leading lights of the Beat movement
assembled together around Columbia University, including Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac,
William Burroughs, and Lucien Carr.
There is a reason you might not recognize the latter name. Poetry and scandal mix freely in the Beat
origin story dramatized in John Krokidas’s Kill
screens during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
Ginsburg is certain poetry is his calling.
His sexuality is another matter.
Arriving at Columbia, his Jewish background automatically sets him apart
as an outsider. His resistance to
aesthetic orthodoxy establishes his credibility with Carr, the campus literary
rebel. Soon Ginsburg is visiting jazz
clubs, sampling Benzedrine with their mutual friend Burroughs, and pining for
the androgynous Carr.
is not the only one carrying a torch for Carr.
Former professor David Kammerer appears to exert some sort of malevolent
emotional hold on his ambiguous friend, which Carr increasingly resents. Since Darlings
starts in media res, viewers realize this will all end in tragedy.
to a scruffy handful of fans for a series of British films about boarding
school students dabbling in the occult, Daniel Radcliffe is serviceably nebbish
as Ginsburg. At least he looks like a
confused kid. However, Ben Foster is
almost worth the price of admission by himself, nailing not just the Burroughs
drawl, but also his eccentric cadences and precise demeanor. Unfortunately, Jack Huston’s Kerouac is 100%
meathead and 0% poet. Still, even though
he looks like he stepped out of a fashion commercial, Dane DeHaan is
convincingly dissolute as Carr.
Darlings is a decent
period production, featuring some swinging tracks from Vince Giordano. Frustratingly, music comes dead last in the
closing credits, well after the caterers and the drivers, even though it contributes
far more to the overall viewing experience.
What would Ginsburg and Kerouac say about that? However, the colorless underscore is a truly baffling
creative decision. David Amram is still
at the top of his game and has considerable experience scoring films. Had Darling
brought him onboard they would have had an apostolic connection to the Beat
Generation. That’s his music in Pull My Daisy, after all. Instead, they opted for the light classical
represents a series of missed opportunities. Foster is terrific and the mid-1940’s New
York vibe is appealing. It even has Sledgehammer!’s David Rasche as the Dean
of Columbia. Nonetheless, the film’s
lurid preoccupation with Carr’s sex life becomes tiresome. More music and more poetry would have made it
a stronger work. Mostly of interest to earnest
Ginsburg and Burroughs fans, Kill Your
Darlings screens again today (1/22), tomorrow (1/23), and Friday (1/25) in
Park City as part of this year’s Sundance.
Labels: Allen Ginsburg, Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, Sundance '13, William Burroughs