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Review: 'Kill Your Darlings'

Lucian Carr (Dane Dehaan) and Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) huff nixtrous oxide in ’Kill Your Darlings.’

Allen Ginsberg has been portrayed by James Franco (Howl!), Tom Sturridge (On the Road) and now Daniel Radcliffe in Kill Your Darlings, John Krokidas' film about the Beat poet's first gay romance.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Ginsberg attended Columbia University in the mid-'40s, where he met Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and a free spirit named Lucian Carr, who he quickly got involved with. The problem, however, was Carr had another lover.

At first it's all fun and games, with the dashing quartet sneaking into the library and replacing classic texts with porno mags, attending parties and hanging out at smoky jazz clubs. Offered to hit a joint, Ginsberg says, "I don't do the cannabis." (Years later he would become an early leader of the marijuana legalization cause.) But he does try Benzedrine in his coffee and nitrous oxide, courtesy of Burroughs (a spot-on Ben Foster). Kerouac (Jack Huston), at the time a jock who played on the Lions' football team, is the lone hetero in the crowd (Elizabeth Olson plays his girlfriend Edie Parker). But David Kammerer (John C. Hall) keeps coming around, and ultimately Carr (Dane Dehaan in a breakout role) decides to to take matters into his own hands, hence the title.

Ginsberg's homosexuality is as much a part of the Beat legacy as Burroughs' hard-drug use and Kerouac's daring writing style. Krokidas presents the poetic movement at an early turning point. Radcliffe dives into the role: his Ginsberg is naive but knowing, needy yet warm. Known for Harry Potter, the actor stretches pretty far here.

Kill Your Darlings represents a dark chapter in Beat history. It's a true story, long forgotten, that needed to be told.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.