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What you need to know for 10/23/2017

Beat generation takes rise in ‘Darlings’

Beat generation takes rise in ‘Darlings’

Danielle Radcliffe may be the marquee name behind the advertising for the Beat generation story "Kil

Early on in “Kill Your Darlings,” 18-year-old Allen Ginsberg, played by Daniel Radcliffe, is on a freshman orientation tour of the Columbia University library when a fellow student jumps on a desk and begins quoting Henry Miller. Shouting provocative language from a banned book in a staid library is not just a singular act of rebellion, it’s a glimpse of the literary anarchy to come and a look at Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), Ginsberg’s first love.

It is also America circa 1944 — homophobic, sexually repressed, obsessed with convention and about to be shaken by the Beat generation. The intellectual outrage of Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs in seminal works such as “Howl,” “On the Road” and “Naked Lunch” will come later. The movie is all about before. The birth pangs of Beat.

Director John Krokidas’ “Kill Your Darlings,” co-written with Austin Bunn, zeros in on the transformative year when Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs first meet. A smoky, sultry haze of jazz, sex, drugs, debates and death all swirling around the charismatic Carr, a Freudian tragedy portrayed with endless shadings by DeHaan.

‘Kill Your Darlings’

DIRECTED BY: John Krokidas

STARRING: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen and Michael C. Hall

RATED: R

GRADE: B

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

The film’s got an indie-appropriate ensemble, beginning with Radcliffe as the Beat poet in his post-“Harry Potter” push to diversify. Jack Huston, yes of that legendary Hollywood family, is the raw-boned brute Kerouac. Ben Foster steps in as Burroughs, mumbling a few dry observations, but mostly minding the drugs, including the heroin that would enslave him and unleash him, chronicled unforgettably in “Junkie,” his first novel.

The story is anchored by Ginsberg’s coming of age and coming out. A shy, studious teen, his relatively cloistered upbringing undergoes a seismic shift upon entering the chaotic world of college with all its liberations, libations and frustrations. There is a kinetic, tabloid energy driving the action as Ginsberg’s sexual and intellectual passions rise. Imagery and editing deconstruct a scene of Ginsberg and Carr deconstructing language, for example. A wall filling up with words cut from pages of books is a visual fugue that rocks.

Entanglements

As does Lucien Carr. He is the catalyst for most of what happened that year, including the brutal death of his older lover, David Kammerer. Michael C. Hall surrenders his serial killing “Dexter” to take on the man who deflowers Carr as a boy, then follows him to New York and fuels his downfall.

The film begins with Kammerer dead, Carr behind bars and Ginsberg having written an account of the night in question. Whether it is fact or fiction, Carr knows it will destroy him. Their exchange over Ginsberg’s words ends in a scream. It’s clearly more complicated than that, and the narrative thread spends its time untangling the various entanglements.

Carr is one you may not know, his name prominent in Ginsberg’s initial dedication of “Howl.” Carr demanded it be removed. This is the man the movie is really about. Arrogant, entitled, impossible to resist, Lucien was the lithe blond boy they all loved a little too much, including the filmmakers.

It makes for a movie whose allegiance is constantly divided. Radcliffe may be the marquee name behind the advertising, but DeHaan’s performance is the reason to see the film. The actor, who first drew notice as another troubled youth in HBO’s “In Treatment,” brings such a complex mix of bravado and vulnerability to Lucien, you feel an absence any time he leaves the screen.

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