A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
A sort of Muppet Babies version of the Beat poets, "Kill Your Darlings" presents a minor prelude to a major literary movement.
Director and co-writer John Krokidas, making his feature debut, uses a little-known 1944 murder as his entrée to depict how soon-to-be-famous writers Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac first met and forged their ethos. But the killing itself is really an afterthought; Krokidas and co-writer Austin Bunn, his former college roommate, devote most the film to boisterous and verbose male bravado. The self-serious way these figures regard themselves—and the self-serious way the film regards them—is cringe-inducing, early and often.
Krokidas romanticizes everything, even the self-destructive instincts that notoriously plagued these writers and inspired their work. The title is "Kill Your Darlings," but the film itself wallows in nostalgia and buys into the hype without digging deeper to provide much insight.
The one wild card throughout is Dane DeHaan's showy, riveting performance as Lucien Carr, the Columbia University student who would take the innocent freshman Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) under his wing and expose him to an intoxicating world of sex, drugs and rock and roll—er, jazz. Radcliffe gets top billing—and "Kill Your Darlings" is yet another laudable example of the actor's daring and desire to distance himself from Harry Potter—but DeHaan steals the show with his unpredictability and smoldering sexuality.