Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)
October 22, 2023 10:06 AM - Subscribe

Members of the Osage tribe in the United States are murdered under mysterious circumstances in the 1920s, sparking a major F.B.I. investigation involving J. Edgar Hoover.

I read this book about 5 years ago, and recall it being gripping and shocking. I was curious to see how Scorsese would structure the film. Who better to bring something gripping and shocking to life! Maybe Scorsese felt the same, before course correcting…

Watching it, I was surprised how straight down the line he played it. He tells the story with restraint, immersing you in a slowly unfolding nightmare, surrounding you with grotesque characters, almost making you feel complicit in silently observing what’s unfolding. Just as many of us do every day, in fact, quietly observing pain, suffering and injustice in the world.
I was unprepared for how affecting I found the closing satire, as I moved from WTF to "OK, I see" to Scorsese’s final blunt on screen interjection. That scene felt, to me at least, in some ways a repudiation of how he has previously approached a biopic or crime drama. I came out of the cinema almost overwhelmed by a much more complex set of emotions than I was expecting.

Mixed in with that set of emotions, the knowledge that Scorsese is 80, and you have to quietly wonder… how much longer can he…
The cinema I was in had had a 50th anniversary showing of Mean Streets last week. 50 years since that film, 30 since I was first introduced to his work through Taxi Driver, he is still finding new ways to express himself, tell stories, find truths, challenge us, to think about the world and our place in it. I feel like cinema needs Martin Scorsese, but he’s 80 and he is singular.
posted by chill (13 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't read the book to know whether this stuff was only left out of the movie, but here's an interesting Twitter thread with some trailing context.
posted by rhizome at 12:11 AM on October 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

The book is terrific. I haven't seen the movie yet, but at three and a half hours I think I might wait till I can split it over two nights on my TV.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:17 AM on October 23, 2023

I am glad I saw it on a big screen - all other things set aside, it is a visually beautiful movie, and every shot is so full of great set dressing and costume work. I was glad to get the chance to see it writ large.

The movie places Ernest and Mollie much more in the center of the narrative than the book did - I found their relationship much more affecting, and it is the central hook of the whole movie, to me. It is a testament to the performances that despite everything, I did believe that they loved each other. Gladstone did so much with so few words.

The cast was fascinating to me. Jason Isbell? Pete Yorn? A Jack White cameo?? The actors playing Osage characters were uniformly excellent.
posted by hepta at 6:56 AM on October 23, 2023 [5 favorites]

I read the book and was pleased to see the change from the focus being a mystery to the focus being Mollie, because holy shit Lily Gladstone. The most electric person I've seen on screen in a long time. When she looks into the camera, you feel it.

My biggest and only note was DiCaprio, who looks so scowling and grumpy bull dog-like the entire movie. it's like he is the only one aging, and I didn't by him as a younger guy who would attract Mollie at the beginning.

A few friends asked if they should see it in the theater. I think that's a hard choice. I've always done better with Scorsese's work when I can watch and think or watch and pause or watch and rewatch. I think a good method might be: Watch it on Apple TV. Read the book. Go see it on the big screen.

Slate is doing a lot of coverage on this film and it's all been interesting and enjoyable:

The Real History Behind Diabetes’ Pivotal Role in Killers of the Flowers Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon’s Author on the Changes the Movie Makes to the Book

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Killers of the Flower Moon
posted by haplesschild at 9:39 AM on October 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

I was glad to see it in the theatre and am eager to do a rewatch when it streams.
posted by mazola at 1:03 PM on October 23, 2023

I was glad to see it in the theatre and am eager to do a rewatch when it streams.

As a person who resists getting one more streaming service, I made sure to give myself plenty of reminders of when this was released so I could go see it. I missed the boat on Denzel Washington's Macbeth when it was in theaters, so I didn't want to make that mistake again.

All that aside, it's an incredible film. Lily Gladstone is magnetic, and DeNiro proves that no matter how many "War with Grandpas" he makes, he can still turn the old magic on when he gives a shit.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:12 PM on October 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

It's no 'King of Comedy', but decent nonetheless.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:15 PM on October 24, 2023 [3 favorites]

I haven't read the book; my wife has. She told me about some of the differences. It seems that part of Scorsese's job was picking out the narrative he wanted to follow in the whole history. There have been plenty of FBI stories (including one where Leonardo DiCaprio plays J Edgar, of course), so if for no other reason than that, his focus here makes sense.

We were both struck that we never get to see inside anyone's head, as is true in real life of course. Ernest Burkhart in particular and William Hale both seem to be animated by conflicting motives. Mollie too. She clearly sees more than she's letting on, and at some level must know she's being betrayed. As viewers, we never know quite what's going on in each character's heart of hearts.
posted by adamrice at 8:46 AM on October 30, 2023 [2 favorites]

What haunts me is the flashback to Byron returning after killing Anna, when Molly brings him the pillow. And he goes to sleep. Just like that.
posted by sohalt at 12:13 PM on November 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

Just finished watching this in the nearest theater a couple of hours ago, having little idea of the details of the plot. So haunting, so restrained. One of the things that struck me is how Scorsese basically telegraphs that Hale is up to no good as soon as he starts mentioning marrying off Ernest to get land rights, but also leads us to believe, through subtle looks and editing, that Hale disapproves of Bill Smith's likely poisoning of Minnie – until he reveals that really, his main objection is that it would lead the mother's head rights to go to Smith instead of his own family. The fact that Hale is so committed to the bit of being "a friend to the Osage" that he became fluent in their language is terrifying. He really saw the levers of local power – the sheriff, the doctor, the Osage – and entwined himself with them all, so that one side wouldn't suspect and the the others were willing to look the other way as long as they were paid.

This film is a great look into how the mechanisms of white supremacy can function just a little bit out of sight, allowing murder after murder to go not only unpunished, but not even investigated. It was definitely not for nothing that Scorsese included an actual news reel of the Tulsa Massacre, and Bill Hale watching it. I'm still wondering exactly what thoughts must have been running through Hale's head in that moment.

Makes me think of all the indigenous women who have gone missing today, their cases still unsolved.
posted by skoosh at 3:31 PM on November 9, 2023 [5 favorites]

This is a good movie, a very good one, even.

But it's more a victory of ambition and budget and execution and production than one of direction.

I find myself in the weird position of feeling this is Scorsese's best film in years and also one of the handful he has ever made I could imagine three to five other directors having made just as well.

He didn't really put any stamp on it to my eyes.

Maybe that's okay, I don't know.

My best picture is still Past Lives.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:44 PM on February 1

I can see why people love this because it's a well-written look into a shocking true story that says a lot about America. And, it's more or less a coming out party for Lily Gladstone who is one of those "Oh, here's a star we will spend many years with!" the first time you see her actors.

But again, this is not in any discernible way stamped with Martin Scorsese's personality or style. And it's approximately 78 hours long. It's supposed to be "Among his best work!" but it feels like a very nice television show he shoved awkwardly into one bladder-killing theatrical package.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:00 AM on February 4

I just finished streaming this on Apple and I enjoyed it, it's a beautiful well made film, but geez, it didn't really give the Osage any true agency. The closest we get is the trip the tribe makes to DC to plead for help. The rest of the film essentially revolves around white men either murdering Osage or investigating the murder of Osage. The Osage People exist in the movie to suffer. Which is what happened, and it's great that this is bringing to the public's attention what happened about a century ago, but it's not a film that gives the people who deserve the power the power.

Mollie divorces Ernest, but this isn't shown, just spoken. The best we get is her accusation that she knows Ernest was poisoning her, which is handled wonderfully by Gladstone, but that's pretty much it. Both Ernest and the King essentially get a slap on the wrist, probation and even for King, pardoned, for being responsible for the death of dozens if not more Osage. This injustice is barely touched upon, nor the fact that the Osage STILL don't have direct control of their mineral wealth (which the government mismanaged for years).

One of the language coaches shared at a preview that he wasn't a big fan, in part because it wasn't an Osage telling of the story, and I agree 100% with it.
posted by Atreides at 11:21 AM on February 9

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