10/29/2013 02:19 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Popcorn Preview: Kill Your Darlings

Film: Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Cast includes: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter series), Dane DeHaan (Lincoln), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jack Huston (Outlander), Ben Foster (The Messenger), Jeffifer Jason Leigh (The Machinist), Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
Director: John Krokidas (Slo-Mo)
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Biography (104 minutes)

"Once you love a thing, it becomes yours forever. It becomes part of who you are..." At this point, we don't understand the jail scene... "Tell the truth!" There's yelling and pleading... "You weren't even there!" The scene changes to Paterson, NJ, 1943. The radio reports the German push into Romania. Allen Ginsberg finds a station that plays jazz instead. "I told you it wouldn't work," says Louis, Allen's father. Allen doesn't know how to calm his emotionally unstable mom. "Don't ever leave me," she pleads. "When were you gonna tell me?" Louis asks. The letter from Columbia University has arrived, and Allen's been accepted. He was afraid to tell his mom. "Love that is hoarded molds... the only thing we ever have is what we give away," says Louis. Father and son often speak to each other in poetry, and Louis quotes from one of his own works.

It's an entirely different mood when Allen gets to Columbia. "Grab your coat and get your hat," says the song... "Leave your worries on the doorstep..." Columbia is definitely on the sunny side of the street. "You're Jewish, aren't you?" Allen's roommate claims to be an expert on everything. When he notices Allen looking for Christopher Street on the map, he warns, "You don't want to go there. There are fairies down there." The highlight of orientation is the library... "The library is a church, and these are the sacraments." The group admires the Guttenberg Bible, but the reverie is broken when Lucien Carr, a blond, blue-eyed student jumps onto the table quoting from Henry Miller... a restricted book. Finally, there's someone Allen would like to know. In class, Professor Stevens explains the three requirements of good poetry... "rhyme, meter, conceit." "Then how do you explain Walt Whitman?" Allen asks. Now it's Lucien who notices Allen. One evening when the dorm is nearly empty, Allen hears Brahms coming from Lucien's room. That's when Allen and Lu actually meet. "Yates says life goes in a circle... until the pattern is ruptured." Allen has just broken the circle.

Allen's lived a "complicated" life up until now, and he's ready to break out. Lu introduces him to all sorts of new things and interesting people... David Kammerer, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and others. Allen would do anything for Lu, who alternates between mysterious, enticing, needy and repellant. Allen isn't the only one who'd do anything for Lu, and Lu enjoys pitting one friend against another. With WWII raging in Europe, "the fascists are here," and the band of friends are determined to fight against conformity. But... "To be reborn, you have to die first." In a drug and alcohol-induced fog, they set out to destroy everything traditional and explore everything non-traditional... their pre-beatnik wanderings. The filmmakers have captured the aimless quality of the characters and the times, yet there's an uneasy tension that runs throughout and keeps us guessing... and eventually that jail scene will make sense. They don't go out of their way to explain things, but those who remember the beat generation will see many familiar details. Lu tells Allen, "You'd be boring if it weren't for me." He enjoys putting Allen down. But he did predict accurately, "Under the right circumstances, even Ginsberg might change the world."

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Allen Ginsberg's tumultuous freshman year at Columbia University

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, nudity, sexual content, drugs)
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Primary Driver: Character development
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought provoking

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You may want to read about another film depicting the pre-beat generation:

On the Road

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