Killers of the Flower Moon: Greedy White Man Ruins the Party Again

Jamie Garcia
4 min readNov 2, 2023

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

There’s no question about it, Martin Scorsese is one of the great filmmakers of our time. Anytime he makes a film, I make a point to see it because I value him as an artistic visionary and I have generally enjoyed his body of work. I’m so glad he decided to tell this story, and I’m thrilled that he chose to work so closely with the people of the Osage Nation while making the project. My problem with Killers of the Flower Moon, however, is that we’re still choosing to tell stories of abuse, brutality, injustice, and crimes against humanity through the eyes of the perpetrators rather than the victims.

While I think that audiences do get some of the perspectives of the Osage people, especially from one of the main characters of the film, Mollie Burkhart, who does some of the narration, the overall narrative is clearly told from the point of view of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Ernest. A not-so-bright, admittedly money-loving white man, who returns from WW1 to to Oklahoma to live with his brother and uncle on his uncle’s cattle ranch. With some not-so-subtle coaxing from his uncle, William Hale (played by Robert De Niro), he ends up courting and marrying Mollie Kyle, (a member of an Osage family with oil rights) and ultimately becoming an heir to her family’s wealth.

The backstory is that the Osage people discovered oil on their land, rendering the tribe extremely wealthy, however, the overtly racist law at the time, assumed all full and half-blood Osage “incompetent” and required white, court-appointed guardians to manage their money. For this reason, many white men lusted after any opportunity to marry into these families and gain access to their headrights. It also contributed greatly to the countless acts of violence committed against the Osage people during this time.

While I think the film does tell this story in a compelling way, putting DiCaprio in the driver’s seat makes it feel like we are supposed to empathize with his character. I think a lot of this has to do with his physical appearance and the fact that his character isn’t working with a full deck, but neither of those things should serve as justification for his crimes. Ernest Burkhart conspired with his uncle and brother to murder multiple members of the Kyle family (his wife’s family), recruiting hitmen to kill them off one by one with the intent of inheriting all of the rights to their oil wealth. When all was said and done, the trio was responsible for the murders of Mollie’s ex-husband, two of her sisters, and one of their husbands (the other was unmarried). Ernest is also convinced by his uncle to start “slowing Mollie down” by poisoning her insulin, which he soullessly administers to her himself.

Sure, Ernest may have been manipulated by his uncle, he certainly wasn’t the smartest man who ever lived, but he did these things willingly, and he was coherent about his choices the entire time. Inherently, I can’t feel sorry for a person like this, yet, somehow, by the end of the film I do. I feel significantly worse for the senseless violence endured by Mollie, her family, and the Osage people, but I still feel empathy for Ernest, and I hate that that’s the case. White male directors need to stop sympathizing with historically bad white men and telling important stories from their perspective. We’ve seen enough of this throughout history, and it’s a huge problem still infiltrating our democracy today. This is my biggest criticism of the film. If you’re going to tell a story like this, I want to see it through the lens of the victims. Period.

As much as I’ve heard other critics lament, the 206-minute run time did not bother me. The film is not fast-paced by any means—with a luxury of 3+ hours, Scorsese takes his time—but it doesn’t feel like a slog. I was thoroughly engaged for the duration, and every time I thought about getting up to use the restroom, I felt like I would miss something important. Here is where I believe Scorsese‘s filmmaking shines. With so many films these days maxing out at over 2 hours, I am fully invested in signing the petition that brings back the intermission, so if I willingly go to the theater to see a film with a ridiculously indulgent runtime, I appreciate when the filmmaker can glue me to the screen.

Speaking of which, I would be remiss not to mention the absolute gift that is Lily Gladstone, the actress who plays Mollie Burkhart. Her performance is inspired, captivating, and brimming with control. I have never seen someone emote so much with their eyes like Gladstone. Her distinctive gaze connected me to her pain, joy, and fear—a fully palpable, wordless experience. She commands attention through stillness and subtlety with a masterful level of skill that’s rarely captured on film. Alongside veteran actors DiCaprio and De Niro, arguably giving some of the best performances of their careers, Gladstone shines in a league of her own.

Ultimately, I was a fan of this film. I think that Killers of the Flower Moon is a film that everyone should see, and I hope that even if you don’t choose to see it in theaters, you will seek it out on your own. I believe there is much to gain from this story as both a historical text and a lesson in filmmaking.

Rating: 4/5 stars

See you at the movies,



Jamie Garcia

Just another movie-obsessed psycho with a lot of opinions.