A mother’s worst nightmare! Her obedient, intelligent, loving, devoted son goes off to college and falls into all the horrific traps that represent the worst of the college experience: drinking, taking a plethora of drugs, all night parties, new and forbidden sexual practices, cutting classes, eventually dropping out, and consorting with a criminal, neigh, a murderer!
I am describing the experiences of young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe). His freshman experiences are only coming to light again after a 70 year dormancy, due largely to the murderer’s express wishes (of course), and are certainly worth the retelling. The 1940’s, post-war New York, saw the beginnings of the beat generation — poets and writers were pushing the boundaries of acceptable thinking and writing. Ginsberg happened to fall in with a crowd that pretty much started this movement and carried him along until he became an equal in this emerging force. His cohorts, William R. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) were inspired by the philosophical dialogue of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) and the forceful urgings of one Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Carr was a privileged, egotistical, manipulative puppet master when it came to Ginsberg who found Carr charismatic and … hot. Carr demanded new ideas, mottos, poetry from Ginsberg to prove his worth, though Carr himself never wrote a word or accomplished a thing in his life but murdering his ex-lover/stalker. Though Carr is depicted disparagingly, to say the least, if he had done nothing but spur Ginsberg on to become the icon he truly became, Carr did enough (well, not when it comes to his gruesome act of murder, but to his treatment of Ginsberg).
Were these experiences the inspiration for ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,…’? Howl. Or would the 2011 film, Howl, which takes place a few years later in Ginsberg’s life, reveal more about his creative process? Pretty soon there will be as many biopics about Ginsberg as Abraham Lincoln. And it would behoove all of us to (re)read ‘On the Road,’ by Kerouac, to fully appreciate this pre-road trip character, the easy-going guy in this film (who seemingly can’t keep off the road) and his lasting contribution to American literature.
Radcliffe gave a sensitive performance as a kind of Alice in New York/Wonderland who still must deal with his dependant, mentally unstable mother, and must also quickly grow up in this new environment. His accent is perfect American, not stilted New Jersey, Ginsberg’s home, but newscaster-speak. When I met Ginsberg at one of his many college speaking engagements, he did have close to a newscaster flat accent, with just the slightest tinge of New York. Ironic how this Columbia University drop out was embraced by schools of higher learning all over the world — well deserved and no hard feelings. But we can expect more American accenting from Radcliffe in the future. His next venture is ‘Horns’ with that now familiar American voice.
I have to point out Michael C. Hall’s outstanding performance — so convincing as Kamerer, I did not recognize him. I am a big fan of his from his dead-on performances (pun intended) in Dexter and Six Feet Under, I am more than familiar with his name, face, voice. I was even struggling while watching “KYD” to place him, but I couldn’t. And I don’t believe it was just the red beard that discombobulated me. The Hall that I knew was no were to be found.
Kill Your Darlings
Director: John Krokidas
Writers: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Cross, Elizabeth Olsen
Time: 104 minutes
Opening November 1 in the Bay Area