“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,” opens Howl, that infamous sensation of a poem, from Allen Ginsberg’s first published volume. Written after the events of Kill Your Darlings, a Ginsberg-Beats origin story, that first line bears all the influence of Ginsberg’s brief studies at Columbia, prior to expulsion. Howl was dedicated to his friend Lucien Carr, charged for manslaughter against his (likely) ex-lover David Kammerer. In the movie, it’s a kick to see young Ginsberg swill booze, poetry, and mischief with William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. But Beat rhythms are only hinted at; this isn’t a Ginsberg biopic told in his own language (for that, see 2010’s Howl). At its core, director Joe Krokidas focuses on Ginsberg’s yearning, all-encompassing friendship-cum-romance with Carr, cannily played by Dane DeHaan. His eyes restless and haunted, DeHaan gives Carr and Ginsberg’s story its soul. With his curly mop and a thicker set of glasses, Daniel Radcliffe has found the type of role that could sustain his second career. New for Radcliffe, his outer passivity suggests a deep well of conflict inside. The excellent Michael C. Hall supports as Kammerer, sensitive to his relentless pining for Carr. Underlying this triangle are the oppression of the Ivy League puritans, and later the horrific laws excusing murder against gay men and women. See this movie not for the celebrities; think of them as heartbroken men, struggling to form a new vision.
For Your Consideration: Dane DeHaan.