Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

January 14, 2014

CALLERI: Murder among the Beats, and the best films of 2013

Niagara Gazette — In “Kill Your Darlings,” Daniel Radcliffe attempts to throw off the mantle of Harry Potter and succeeds, proving that he has immense talent.

However, and this is not negative criticism, I think his future lies in being a character actor, for which there is a great need, not a leading man. He’s slight, offbeat looking (but in a good way), and too quirky of voice to settle into starring roles in today’s summer action movies. As if to prove me correct, his next major part will be as the laboratory assistant Igor in the upcoming version of “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.”

“Kill Your Darlings” is a beautifully crafted ensemble piece, and Radcliffe fits in perfectly. The movie is about a real-life murder that involved Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac, three hallowed writers of the Beat Generation. The film looks at them before the vast notoriety that enveloped the trio in the 1950s. It captures nicely the look of the era with fine production values and superior cinematography by Reed Morano.

The movie is the first feature from director John Krokidas, and he succeeds mightily with his understanding of the main characters. He presents them as living and breathing people, not icons to be worshiped, something that has eluded others who have tried to bottle the spirit of the Beats on the screen. The recent sluggish “On The Road” being just one of many failed examples. Krokidas’s approach is energizing.

In the 1940s, a shy, awkward and sexually unaware Ginsberg, who would eventually achieve monumental fame with his poem “Howl,” is attending Manhattan’s Columbia University, having arrived from his Paterson, New Jersey home and the watchful eyes of his poet father (David Cross) and mentally unstable mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Radcliffe plays Ginsberg.

Young Allen knows that he wants to write and that he finds men more interesting than women. Aside from sly digs at Ogden Nash, the most popular American poet of the day, and a willingness to get into spirited discussions with a college literary professor (John Cullum), he’s a bit unsteady intellectually and sexually as he relishes his personal freedom.

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