My rating: 7
IMDB rating: 6.5
Allen Ginsberg, the Beat Generation, homosexuality, Daniel Radcliffe and Michael C. Hall, are all seemingly amazing ingredients for the perfect movie, but where did they “kill their darlings”?
The post-WWII Beat Generation of Allen Ginsberg was all about protesting against the establishment and against academic pretentiousness. These writers were usually well-educated and from the middle class.
This movie is not only about Ginsberg and his “Beats”, it is also about homosexuality and obsession. Even deeper than that; this film is also a type of coming-of-age narrative. And you can hear me say, as Lucien Carr says: “I love complicated”.
I have always found it very interesting that some people just have the ability to inspire obsession in people, as Lucien Carr does. It was especially clear in this film that with obsession comes a certain amount of control, and in this film’s love triangle (Lucien, Allen and David) this control is exerted in ways that inspire even more obsession.
What do I mean by this? As David obsesses over Lucien, Lucien has some emotional control over David, because he knows that he is the object of his obsession. Lucien, in his own, “counter-obsessive”-way also have an obsession with David as his initial inability to let him go shows, this obsession also manifests through emotional control, but also more direct control because David is the one doing his papers. Lastly, Allen obsesses over Lucien, this gives Lucien enough to be able to control Alan as he has controlled David and so he tries to replace David with Allen.
LGBT literature has been on the rise since the early nineties as more and more countries have made same-sex marriages legal. And so queer theory has become a very crucial part of literary studies. Cinema, on the other hand, has not been as evolved as its literary counterparts.
Although underground and alternative cinematic movements have always supported the LGBT cause, just think back to Scorpio Rising (1964), etc. With Mainstream cinema, it is a lot more complicated. It was not until Brokeback Mountain (2005) was released that we could comfortably sit back and watch movies like Milk (2008), Black Swan (2010), Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Behind the Candelabra (2013) that contained A-list Hollywood actors, finally playing queer roles.
(The first thought I had when I finished this film, was that we have certainly come a long way since trying to use the ‘gay panic’ defense. Much to my surprise, I found that Wikipedia lists cases from 2010 that still tries to use exactly this defense!)
The problem I had with this film was that although the beginning of the Beat Generation is somewhat explored, the impact and the continuation of the movement is never mentioned. Maybe, this is just because I have a literary background, but I also would have loved to have heard more of Ginsberg’s poems incorporated into the film itself.
It can also be very risky to let Daniel Radcliffe play a role in such a movie, because will the audiences, in the end, be coming to see this for Daniel Radcliffe, is it in other words a commercial film? Or is this a film on the exploration of sexuality, literary freedom and life-threatening obsession? I realise this is a bit of an underestimation of Radcliffe, but aren’t we all rushing to this film to see the post-Potter Radcliffe? I just hope that it does not destroy the message that the film is trying to send!
That being said, I think that Radcliffe does a very good job in portraying Ginsberg and that he certainly was the best choice, because that sex scene was truly sensitively handled and just plain beautiful. DeHaan’s performance is also worth mentioning and together they make quite a team.
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