Kill Your Darlings is biographical drama film directed by John Krokidas in his feature film directorial debut. The story is about the college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation (Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac), their interactions, and the killing in Riverside park.
As a young man in the 1940s, poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) wins a place at Columbia University in New York City. He arrives as a very inexperienced freshman, but soon runs into Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who is very anti-establishment and rowdy.
After awhile Ginsberg discovers that the only reason Carr manages to stay at Columbia is because of a somewhat older man a professor, David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who writes all of his term papers for him, and has a predatory relationship with Carr. It appears that Kammerer is still in love with Carr, and is revealed to be pressuring Carr for sexual favors, in exchange for assuring that he cannot be expelled.
Gisnberg soon meets Willam S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), who is already very deep into drug experimentation He also meets the writer Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), who was a sailor at the time and expelled from Columbia. Carr eventually tells Kammerer he is done with him, and recruits Ginsberg (who has a crush on him) to write his term papers instead. After a while, Kerouac and Carr attempt to run off and join the merchant marine together, hoping to go to Paris.
There is a confrontation between Carr and Kammerer, during which Kammerer is killed by stabbing (and perhaps also by drowning). Carr is arrested, and asks Ginsberg to write his deposition for him. Ginsberg is reluctant to help the unhinged Carr, but after digging up more crucial evidence on Kammerer and his past relationship, he writes a piece entitled “The Night in Question”. The piece describes the incident in emotional detail. Carr rejects the “fictional” story, and begs a determined Ginsberg not to reveal it to anybody, afraid that it will ruin him in the ensuing trial. After the trial we find out that Carr testified that the attack took place only because Kammerer was a sexual predator, and that Carr killed him in self-defense. Carr is not convicted of murder and receives only a short sentence for manslaughter.
Ginsberg then submits “The Night in Question” as his final term paper. The paper is deemed far too shocking and Allen is faced with possible expulsion from Columbia. Either he must be expelled or he must embrace establishment values. He chooses to be expelled, but his forced to leave the paper behind. A week or two later he receives the typescript in the mail with an encouraging letter from his professor telling him to pursue his writing.
This film, based on a real life murder, portrayed excellently, making you feel like you there with Ginsberg, Carr, Kerouac and Burroughs. The murder scene is done so realistically, you feel like you watching the real David Kammerer murder. Although, this a biographical film, some of the events may be out of order or not exactly precise, it still shows how even mid 40’s, sexual predators still existed. Even though this film has been said by Carr’s son Caleb as being mostly from Ginsberg’s version of events, it still tells of the meat of the book, the Murder in Riverside Park. Not all biographical films are one-hundred percent accurate.
Daniel Radcliffe is outstanding as Allen Ginsberg and portrays him much better than Tom Sturridge in On the Road. Dane DeHann is equally great as Lucien Carr and portrays him tons better than Norman Reedus in Beat, which to me is the worst depiction of The Beat Generation, that director must have been on something when casting them, but that’s another story. Jack Huston is quite good as Jack Kerouac, but to me, not as good as Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, who got the look, voice and mannerisms very much like the real Burroughs at the time. Michael C. Hall was pretty good as David Kammerer, but the only thing the director left out was Kammerer’s glasses (he wore them in real life). David Cross did alright job as Allen’s dad Louis Ginsberg, who played Allen in I’m Not There and did a much better porformance (he looked almost identical to the real Allen).
Over all I think this movie is very well done. It’s a great film not just for “Beat” fans, but also for anyone who likes to know about famous murders. 4/5