I’m gonna be completely honest with you guys: the only reason I watched this is that it stars Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan. Radcliffe is (obviously) the guy who played Harry Potter, and Dane DeHaan is one of the most attractive people I’ve ever seen, so, yeah. Gay Harry plus really cute other guy? Sign me up.
The movie follows poet and literature student Allen Ginsberg in the 40s as he attends university and meets the fascinating and attractive Lucien Carr. He promptly falls for him and gets dragged into a lot of trouble, including a mysterious murder.
Director: John Krokidas
Genre: biography, drama, romance
Average rating: 6.5/10
This is the first movie I’ve watched starring Daniel Radcliffe that isn’t part of the Harry Potter world. I was a bit worried I wasn’t going to like his performance, because a lot of people say they don’t like him as an actor when he’s not playing Harry – but my fear was unnecessary, he’s a stunning actor and I loved his portayal of Allen. Considering how much I love Dane DeHaan’s face, I also haven’t watched a lot of his movies; the only other one I’m familiar with is Chronicle. But, to be fair, that’s one of my favourite movies of all time, and not just because of how pretty he is.
Now that I’ve talked about the actors, I want to start the actual review by saying that I loved this movie. The story was interesting, the characters were likable and fascinating, and the setting was well-done. Allen starts out as a bit of a shy poet, one who has a lot of feelings about the world and lots of strong opinions, but isn’t sure how to express them – he wants to be the kind of person who doesn’t give a shit what people think of him, but he isn’t sure where to start. Lucien is that kind of person – he knows he’s smart, he knows he’s handsome, and he does whatever the hell he wants.
Of course, Allen immediately falls for him, and even if your gaydar isn’t that developed, his feelings for the rebellious fellow student are quite clear. He just stares at him a lot and gets all dreamy. (I want to mention at this point that Daniel Radcliffe does a fantastic job of playing gay. HE LOOKS SO CUTE WHEN HE’S IN LOVE WITH LUCIEN.)
Something I really enjoyed about this movie is the way the characters challenged conventional literature. I’m a prospective literature student myself, and there is nothing I love more than texts that challenge society, that fall outside of the norm and maybe cause a bit of a scandal. There is a wonderful scene in this movie where they break into the library and create an exhibition with all the restricted books they find – stuff about homosexuality and all those wonderful forbidden topics. I couldn’t stop grinning.
Another thing I really loved is the shooting style. It’s a bit strange at times, but I loved the colours they used and the way the camera moved. I also enjoyed how they integrated Allen’s daydreams into the real story – sometimes you’d think something was really happening, and then the camera would jump back to the real world, and you’d realise it had just been one of Allen’s fantasies. It might bother some people, but I liked it.
What I didn’t expect from this movie, and what made me love it even more: it’s based on a real story. Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and all the other characters really existed, and the stuff in the movie really happened to them. I mean, that’s amazing! What especially surprised me is that I know two of the books those characters published later on; On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Jack and Will were good friends of Lucien and Allen, and Lucien Carr especially played a big role in their lives for a long time. So when you get to the end of the movie, definitely stay for the credits – you’ll find the story of the real people behind the characters.
I haven’t read On the Road or Naked Lunch, but here’s a fun fact: they were mentioned in The Perks of being a Wallflower, and the main character in that book really enjoyed them, so I put the titles on my wishlist like a million years ago, and I still very much want to read them. Weird coincidence, right?
Now, I’ve mentioned all the amazing things I love about this movie – so why not give it five stars? Well, it wasn’t gay enough. That might sound like a stupid reason, but I wanted more romance, and I never got it. The movie does have some really good scenes between Radcliffe and DeHaan, but I had hoped for a more romantic approach, and instead got a much more one-sided lovestory.
I’m not going to spoil how their relationship develops, but if you’re looking for a cute happily-ever-after, you’ll be disappointed. I did not expect a very positive outcome, but I was still left feeling a bit meh – if there had been more romance in the middle, I wouldn’t even have minded the sad ending. When am I ever going to see Daniel Radcliffe kiss Dane DeHaan again?!
Another thing that bothered me a bit is how pretentious the dialogue was at times. I understand that those are literature students in the 40s, but dude, chill. They were all so obsessed with themselves and their own vision of the world. They felt superior, better than everyone else, and they kept having these really pretentious conversations. Eh, no thank you.
The dialogue did get better though, and the missing romance wasn’t enough to take away more than one star – I very much loved this movie, and I’m really glad I watched it. Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan are fantastic actors who were chosen perfectly for their respective parts and did a great job of playing their roles. I kept getting distracted by Dane DeHaan’s beautiful face, but I’m still pretty sure this is a solid movie and well worth a watch.
LOOK AT HIM.
If you’re in Germany you can definitely find it on Netflix, and you might want to check if it’s available in your country as well.
‘Till next time and happy watching!