Even though it's slightly too mannered, this true drama takes a clever approach to the beat poets long before they were famous. It's also packed with shocking twists and unnerving details that help us get emotionally involved in the story. And while the complexity of the approach kind of leaves us on the outside, sensitive performances help us see beneath the surface.
Set in 1943, the film centres on Allen Ginsburg (Radcliffe), who has been encouraged by his poet father (Cross) and needy mother (Leigh) to attend Columbia in New York. There he befriends the transgressive writer Lucien Carr (DeHaan), whose secret mentor-boyfriend David (Hall) is actually writing his coursework. Through Lucien, Allen is introduced to the druggy lifestyle of intense artist William Burroughs (Foster) and rugged womaniser Jack Kerouac (Huston). And together they decide to change the world. Then a shocking murder alters the dynamic between these young men.
The film's title is age-old advice to artists: you have to get rid of the people closest to you if you want to truly express yourself. And of course the fatal plot twist is an ironic exploration of this idea, as the film delves into shadowy corners of artistic anarchy, drug use and sexuality. (Radcliffe's notorious gay sex scene is strikingly well-played and pivotal in Allen's journey.) Filmmaker Kokidas infuses each scene with dark artistry: the actors look achingly cool even when they're wallowing in a trashy, immaculately production-designed drug den.
They also deliver surprisingly introspective performances. Radcliffe sharply draws us into Allen's perspective, letting us experience the way the world opened up for him as he left the safety of his youth behind. And DeHaan is a standout as the mesmerising Lucien. On the other hand, the female characters feel somewhat irrelevant (including Olsen as Jack's discarded girlfriend and Sedgwick as Lucien's society mum). And even if we never quite see the iconic figures these men would eventually become, the film is a striking depiction of the camaraderie and talent that combined to jolt the art world out of its complacency.
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 19th September 2013
Box Office USA: $1.0M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: Killer Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 99 Rotten: 32
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: John Krokidas
Producer: Michael Benaroya, Rose Ganguzza, John Krokidas, Christine Vachon
Screenwriter: John Krokidas, Austin Bunn
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker, Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer, Ben Foster as William Burroughs, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Naomi Ginsberg, Kyra Sedgwick as Marian Carr, David Cross as Louis Ginsberg, David Rasche as Dean
Also starring: Christine Vachon
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