Rated R for murder. All the murder. And it's the worst kind of cinematic murder, where it is so matter of fact and blunt that it is just horrifying. There are some brutal murders that just happen. Also, the gore is pretty on point. It is a lot to take in for the majority of the movie. The characters in the movie are incredibly racist, so that's something to contend with. There's some innuendo and language too. Really, R all around.
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
Now that it is Oscar season, I'm nonstop watching movies. For the first time in ages, I'm now behind on writing. I haven't taken a day off or anything. I'm just watching movies faster than I can write about them. Killers of the Flower Moon? Still fresh. The only problem is that it took three days to watch this movie because Martin Scorsese doesn't follow that ol' Hitchcock chestnut about the length of a movie coinciding with the size of someone's bladder. If my take on this movie is a bit skewed, please forgive me. Between breaking it up and having watched a billion other movies since then, it may not have the most salient points. Do you know what? I'm going to have some confidence in myself. My very sleepy goal right now? To give you the best Killers of the Flower Moon breakdown that this guy has in him.
I always hate talking about a very impressive movie with a less than impressed tone. Martin Scorsese did something incredible with Killers of the Flower Moon. This is the Scorsese I missed, especially with my lackluster viewing of The Irishman. He's been this director who has not really challenged himself to do a story in under two hours in a while. I know that his next movie is going to be pretty darned short. But Scorsese has gotten a bit long-winded with his movie. Again, hate the tone that this thing is heading in, but I really want to recenter that. Killers of the Flower Moon almost needs to be this long. Okay, maybe not THIS long. It's pretty long. But this is both a story about the murders that happened, told in the even longer form of the true crime novel, but also a study of how two cultures simultaneously blend and become parasites.
It wouldn't be a parasite if it worked both ways. We get that White people became parasites on the Osage, right? Look, I learned a ton from this movie. Do I have a rich knowledge of the financial wellbeing of the Osage people and the subsequent predatory behavior of the White people in this era? No. I had to refer to it as "that era" because I can't be bothered to Google it right now. I told you, I'm behind on my writing and I'm filling in what I can when I can. I just watched this movie with the most confused eyes imaginable. There was this period in history, where cars were a novelty (I should be able to do the math just by that fact) where White men were intermarrying with Native Americans and that was just acceptable. If people think that White America doesn't maintain power through unjust financial practices, it's interesting to see what happens when a subjugated people all of the sudden become the dominant financial decision-makers in a region. And that's what the story is about. It's about White pride and what it looks like when money is out there.
It takes a while to show two cultures that don't necessarily live to traditional stereotypes. Now, if conservative America really wanted to take issue with White portrayal, I can see some frustrations happening. I happen to think that the portrayal of White America by De Niro and DiCaprio is pretty fantastic (going as far as to say that Robert De Niro's performance in this movie might be the best thing that we've seen in years, if ever). But it is interesting to see how the Osage transitioned from being completely divorced from the White man to intermarrying and financing the White people of the area with purchases. I mean, we've seen part of this story before. The second that money starts erupting from the ground, there are going to be vultures. I think the movie refers to them as coyotes. That part isn't shocking. It's just the acknowledgement that the Osage come across as both blissfully ignorant of human behavior while simultaneously masters of morality and what they see.
The entire thing builds this paradoxical vibe. Every character in the film is duplicitous. While "duplicitous" may have negative connotations, some of that duplicity simply comes from complexity of character. Mollie Burkhart starts the movie aware that Ernest is just chasing her for her money. She calls him out on it. It's a central conceit to their relationship. But because he's more handsome than the other men who have attempted the same thing, she's open to the prospect. She can't comprehend that a man who is after her money could do such horrendous thing, despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary. She both absolutely believes that he is a scoundrel and that he is a good man and a good husband. It's a weird character trait for the character who is closest thing the movie has to a hero in the story. Ernest, in contrast, who is the protagonist of the film, is all over the place morally. He's ultimately villainous, with moments of moral goodness. But this is a guy who believes paradoxical things.
It's odd, because Scorsese shapes these people to be paradoxical morally, mostly because they are stupid. Bill Hale, he's the smart guy in the story. But he's also the least paradoxical. Ernest is a big ol' dumb-dumb. He starts courting and ultimately marrying Mollie because Hale tells him to. Ernest states his inner need quite vocally. He "loves money." Everything that Ernest does is for a dollar. But he keeps flip-flopping on his motivations between what seems to be a genuine love for Mollie and the need to destroy her to inherit all of her wealth. Also, as dumb as he is (which I cannot downplay in this movie whatsoever. He's a big ol' dummy all the way through), he seems aware that he's being taken advantage of by Hale. There's a scene where Ernest is on the ropes. Suspicion has been placed almost squarely on Ernest and he's hesitant to sign papers giving Hale complete proprietorship over Mollie's wealth should anything happen to Ernest. The thing is that Ernest has been doing the same with other people for Hale. He knows the score and still pushes it through.
All of this stems from the charisma of Bill Hale. Golly, De Niro is so good in this role. I'm all for him, man. He's so good. Anyway, Hale's motivation is the most clear cut. His double nature comes from the fact that he's choosing to play a character 90% of his day. He gains the accolades and love of the Osage people and it's just this lovely treat that covers up his criminal nature. But Hale is something else. When it comes to that charisma, I feel like the Osage know that they cannot trust him, stating clearly that they can't trust any White man even while Hale is present. But they keep doing what he says. I mean, every single recommendation from Hale is returned with a resounding yes. They thank him for all of his efforts. He's at every wedding and every ceremony. There's De Niro, speaking Osage to them throughout and I get it. This movie gives us one of those rare Hannibal Lecter moments where we see this immense evil underneath the skin, yet we keep wanting more. Honestly, Ernest testifying against Hale was simultaneously the most satisfying thing and the least satisfying thing ever.
And that epilogue? Hale barely served any time for the multiple murders of the Osage? It's there and it's the responsibility of the viewer to be up in arms about the injustice happening to these people. It's so much. I am flabbergasted by this movie and I absolutely love it.
The bummer of it all is that I already have a bunch of movies that I love more. Scorsese is such a good director that he can make a movie like Killers of the Flower Moon, something that really doesn't make any mistakes, and it still isn't my favorite Scorsese. It's just a year to put into contention with other great films. Guys, this movie knocked my socks off, but I won't be rooting for it. It's a bit too long and it sometimes loses my attention. But it is objectively great.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.