There's some relatively smart corporate humor in Kill Your Darlings, the debut feature from Björne Larson, whose first short, To Kill a Child, premiered at Tribeca three years ago. Most of what's good about the film involves John Larroquette, who is given an opportunity to deliver a slightly more layered performance than usual as Dr. Bangley, a celebrishrink (think Dr. Phil with an Ivy League sheen) launching a book and reality show based on his controversial work with suicide survivors, called Stay Alive – and Enjoy the Ride! , and Greg Germann recycles the best of the sleaziness he perfected on Ally MacBeal as Bangley's media consultant. As the befuddled figurehead of a media train gone off the rails, Larroquette nicely underplays an ambivalence between family values and fame, whilst Germann's reptilian efficiency hits the perfect note of nonchalance.

It's too bad that Kill Your Darlings isn't really about these characters, because most of the 70% of the film not involving them is nearly unwatchable.




Most of the film concerns the exploits of Erik, (Andreas Wilson), a young, model-good-looking Swede trying to turn his mother's suicide – and an apparent Swedish obsession with auto-offing – into a hit screenplay. It's not working out so well for him, so in the meantime, Erik works as a fast food product photographer to pay the bills. Up to this point, as scenes of Erik's deadpan acquiescence to fast food execs play in contrast to Bangley's adventures in amoral marketing, it looks as though Kill Your Darlings is heading towards the kind of comedic territory recently explored by Jason Reitman's subtle-as-napalm Thank You For Smoking, but with a welcome injection of humanity (or, at the very least, three-dimensionality).

But then Larson introduces Lola (Lolita Davidovich, tragically, blindly acting herself even farther into the proverbial paper bag), an attractive-for-her-age but clearly batty redhead who takes an instant interest in Erik's interest in suicide. Oblivious to the red flags flying up all around her, Erik agrees to borrow his boss' SUV to accompany Lola to Las Vegas for the weekend. She promises him they'll work on his screenplay in the car, which they do, to a point; past that point, she engages him in what I believe is referred to, in the industry, as A Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse. Except it's all a little too ridiculous to feel very dangerous; Erik is given ample warning of Lola's craziness and even potentially violent nature (when she holds a screwdriver to his head and creepily announces something about "drilling inside there," he takes it as flirtation) and even more bountiful opportunity to escape her clutches. It's completely unclear why he allows himself to remain shackled (sometimes literally) to her for as long as he does, although maybe I'm underestimating the things a young man with a mommy complex will do to get laid. Also traveling to Las Vegas: a needy, blonde waif and a transvestite with a solid left hook, both Bangley's patients, who have been rounded up by a hired kidnapper as fodder for the good doctor's reality show.

Satire of the sort that the Stay Alive subplot suggests Larson is trying to pull off requires the script to stay two steps ahead of the viewer, but the Lola business is all so tedious that anyone would be liable to turn off rather than waste effort trying to catch up. What we're left with, in the absence of any coherent bank of ideas tying the proceedings together, is an often illiterate onslaught of quirk. The press notes indicate that the film is based on a real-life roadtrip the writer-director took with a stranger who turned out to be a psycho; sounds fascinating, but nothing very real managed to make it into his film.