‘Flower Moon’ important story, yet film falls flat

‘Flower Moon’ important story, yet film falls flat

‘Flower Moon’ important story, yet film falls flat
JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” (Apple Original Films)

Jeff Mellinger Screen Shots(Nov. 7, 2023) — In the late 19th century, the Osage Nation struck oil. Knowing they would be forever changed, they embraced the wealth bestowed upon them.

The tragedy that struck them in the 1920s is one of the most shameful displays of the 20th century when it comes to how one group of Americans treats another. While researching the subject, director Martin Scorsese spent more than two years meticulously planning for his latest film, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

To do justice to the Osage people, Scorsese strove to be as accurate as possible. While it probably does not need to be 215 minutes long, “Killers of the Flower Moon” certainly does right by the Osage Nation.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a tour de force performance as sad sack Ernest Burkhart. Recently discharged from his cooking duties in WWI, Burkhart shows up in Oklahoma to see what his uncle William (a chilling Robert De Niro) and brother Byron (Scott Shepherd) are up to. William touts himself as a benevolent benefactor of the Osage. De Niro eats up every scene as William’s machinations slowly (to put it mildly) come to light.

Something not quite right

Robert Deniro with Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives a tour de force performance as Ernest Burkhart.

Ernest falls for Mollie (Lily Gladstone). Mollie and her three sisters are a prominent family. She knows something is not quite right and even narrates a couple of scenes decrying the recent uninvestigated deaths of Osage members.

As Mollie’s family eventually becomes affected by mysterious events, things unravel that show the sinking levels of depravity to which people will stoop when money is involved.

Scorsese lets the film unfold at a glacial pace, so that the audience can get to really know some of the characters. However, Mollie’s three sisters play important roles and I found myself hardly learning anything about two of them. There are also some minor characters, rogues and ruffians mostly, who play major roles in the third act.

At that point, much like he did in “Goodfellas,” Scorsese runs quickly through scenes involving a half dozen or so of these characters. Yet, most of the characters are so vague or underdeveloped, the payoff falls flat.

Where this film truly shines is with its portrayal of the Osage. Their harrowing true story is finally, and accurately, told. With so many backward laws coming about in school districts across the country, some may forbid the teaching of stories like this. As a history lesson, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is something that should exist in perpetuity. As a film, Scorsese has done better. B

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Jeff Mellinger

Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord.