Daniel Radcliffe emerges as a fully-formed, big movie actor in his febrile, detailed and brave portrayal of the nascent beat poetry superstar.
It was William Faulkner who said; “In writing, you must kill all your darlings”. And that’s what the Columbia University freshman Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) is told early on, as he settles in to learning how to be a poet, and what it takes to be one.
The metaphor chimes out leitmotiv-like through the film, as a quartet of bright young minds struggle to find their ways and voices, letting themselves, each other, loved ones and their morals down along the way. The intricately designed, shot and edited movie is fast-paced, relentlessly energetic, bold, sensual and funny—a music video rollercoaster ride at times. Writer director John Krokidas achieves an authentic warts-and-all portrayal of artists who can be somewhat tarnished as they are lionised. We see, for example, Ginsberg’s first knotty flirtations with homosexual love; his indulgent failure to save his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh in operatic form) from sectioning; rich kid William S Burroughs early experiments with strong narcotics; and Jack Kerouac (a charismatic and dynamic performance from Jack Huston) letting down his loyal wife (a melancholy Elizabeth Olsen).
But it’s Radcliffe’s performance you’ll remember—thorough, researched, intricate, brave. And utterly convincing.
With Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Screenwriters John Krokidas, Austin Bunn