Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Dallas Buyers Club and Kill Your Darlings, two stranger-than-fiction biopics.
PremiseIn Dallas Buyers Club, Texas electrician and (heterosexual, homophobic) playboy Ron Woodruff is diagnosed with HIV in 1986. The film follows his battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies to get himself, and eventually other patients, access to treatment. Kill Your Darlings focuses on the origins of the Beat movement and the friendships of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Lucien Carr. Oh, it’s set against the backdrop of the murder of a 30-something in love with Carr. While both films elicit “Can you believe that actually happened?,” a literary movement origin story-cum-murder mystery beats out a fight-the-system medical drama.Advantage: Kill your DarlingsCastDallas Buyers Club is the cherry on top of Matthew McConaughey’s Good Actor Tour (see Magic Mike, Mud). It also stars Jennifer Garner in a rare darker role as a nurse and Jared Leto sporting a not-so-rare dramatic appearance change. Kill Your Darlings has four of young Hollywood’s new(ish) darlings (bad pun intended): Daniel Radcliffe as Alan Ginsberg, Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) as Jack Kerouac, and The Place Beyond the Pines‘ excellent Dane DeHaan as the non-famous Lucien Carr. Elizabeth Olsen stars as Kerouac’s girlfriend and Michael C. Hall as the man obsessed with Carr. Look out for Kyra Sedgwick, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and David Cross, too. McConaughey’s certainly on a roll these days, but the good looks (and, okay, acting abilities) of Foster, DeHaan, and especially Olsen give this round to Kill Your Darlings. Daniel Radcliffe’s all right, too.Advantage: Kill Your DarlingsIllegal ActivityWoodruff’s drug ring dramatically changed the way HIV patients access medication, and those scenes with the police look as intense as they are darkly funny. In Kill Your Darlings, a body is found in Riverside Park. So, what’ll it be, smuggling or murder?Advantage: TieOscar OddsThis one’s a no brainer. There’s already tons of buzz about McConaughey taking home Best Actor this year. He lost a frightening amount of weight for the role (and we know how much the Academy loves a startling weight change) and from the trailer, is acting his ass off. Leto, as a transvestite, is also in the running for Supporting Actor. The movie’s tagline is “Dare to Live;” hello, Oscar Bait.Advantage: Dallas Buyers ClubSettingDallas Buyers Club gives us the gloriously tacky Texas ’80s. The trailer opens at a rodeo, McConaughey’s got a handlebar mustache and a Stetson, and Leto is wearing pink tights. Bring it on. Kill Your Darlings takes place at Columbia University in ’44, and from the trailer, looks moody, dark, and frenzied. Also, it definitely wins in the eyewear category.Advantage: Kill Your DarlingsPhysical TransformationsDaniel Radcliffe makes a pretty impressive Allan Ginsberg, and we’d like to stare at Jack Huston (or Jack Kerouac, for that matter) all day. Dallas Buyers Club utterly transformed its actors physically, starving McConaughey and putting Jared Leto in a dress, heels, and a variety of wigs. Like Oscar voters, we’re suckers for a life-threatening weight-loss.Advantage: Dallas Buyers ClubVerdictThough Dallas Buyers Club is definitely going to spark “I need to see that before the Oscars!” conversations among everyone we know, Kill Your Darlings is too much for the literary-nerd, Beat-worshiping, thriller-addicts inside us to miss. If you simply need an HIV-skinny actor tearjerker, there’s Philladelphia. Nothing like Kill Your Darlings comes to mind, so its originality and young acting talent gives it the edge.Winner: Kill Your Darlings