A true beatnik story, some post-nuclear terror, a holiday farce and a minor celebrity’s surprise
Youth is a big theme in the new movies this week. Among budding beatniks, with four young people after a nuclear blast, some old friends re-uniting and an actor in a real-life meeting with fans he didn’t know he had.
Here’s the list:
Kill Your Darlings: 3 stars out of 5
How I Live Now: 3
The Best Man Holiday: 3
Slaughter Nick for President: 3 ½
Todd Haynes Retrospective –
KILL YOUR DARLINGS: Why so much interest in the Beat generation writers right now? I guess if you’re looking for rebels to celebrate you’re not likely to check out your parents’ era (hippies again? more baby boomers?); you’ll go back a generation. We’ve already had Howl, three years ago, and On The Road, earlier this year, although that one was so dull it never opened here. Now, this film takes us to 1944 the year Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) met at Columbia University. It’s a key moment in literary history but not primary here.
The central story has little to do with their future art. It involves a fourth friend Lucien Carr, played by Dane DeHaan, who we last saw roaming around Vancouver in the Metallica movie. He really was a rebel. He agitated to get books by Henry Miller and others off the restricted shelves and introduced the boys to the Greenwich Village jazz clubs. He had sex with Ginsberg (yes, with Daniel Radcliffe in a post-Harry Potter shake-up) and one night stabbed a former professor who was using him sexually. As a sidebar to that story, we see the boys talking endlessly about a writing revolution. Dump your masters, kill your darlings, forget meter and rhyme, they advocated. It was only talk as of yet but the film evokes the era and the enthusiasm very well. Radcliffe nicely conveys the eye-opening changes felt by the new guy in the crowd and DeHaan, driven, fast-talking and reckless, is charismatic. (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5
HOW I LIVE NOW: A popular young adult novel, a timely theme and a tension-rising mood make for a captivating film. And not just for the young. Saoirse Ronan, who we first got to see in Atonement, plays an American teen sent to live on a farm in England.
She’s sullen, self-absorbed and resentful, until she notices that her cousin (George MacKay) is quite a hunk. She starts to warm up and then is forced to grow out of her narcissism. Terrorists have exploded a nuclear bomb in London (which we don’t see, just get news about) and England is put under martial law. That we do see because state officials and military types arrive to force her, him and two other cousins, I to evacuate.
She and eight-year-old Piper are separated from the others and spend the rest of the film on a sometimes harrowing trip to get back home. Taut direction by Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland) and strong acting by Ronan and the other three, make this film worth watching. It conveys the universal dread of what calamities might be next. There’s also some startling violence and one gross sequence. They’re out of step with the idylic greenfields ambience in the film’s earlier sections. And some may be unnerved by the film’s unwillingness to explain everything. What terrorists? Why? What is happening at the end? We’re getting one young woman’s account, so it’s right that there are gaps. We get what she knows. And it’s often intense. (Dunbar Theatre) 3 out of 5