Martin Scorcese and Lily Gladstone smile at each other during a film festival press conference.

Martin Scorsese’s Praise of Lily Gladstone In ‘Certain Women’ Is So Much More Interesting Than the Marvel Discourse Du Jour

It’s gotten to a point where seeing the name “Martin Scorsese” on the internet means you’re likely to encounter a lot of smug opinions from one direction or another. So instead, let’s talk about how Scorsese has been hyping up Killers of the Flower Moon star Lily Gladstone.

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His latest leading lady is dancing it out on the SAG-AFTRA picket line and unable to discuss her role because of the ongoing strike. So Scorsese has been doing it for her. Thanks, bestie! I especially love the attention he has brought to her breakout role in Kelly Reichardt’s independent film Certain Women. It feels good when a guy who (unintentionally) brings out the worst in film bros tips his hat to a female independent filmmaker whom I happen to love.

Certain Women is made up of three vignettes that briefly connect. The first features Laura Dern as a hostage negotiator. The second is led by Michelle Williams, who also stars in Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy and her recent film Showing Up. The third and final vignette centers on Lily Gladstone’s character. She plays a ranch hand who develops a crush on a character played by Kristen Stewart. It’s simple. It’s relatable. And it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. Gladstone received droves of acclaim for her breakthrough performance, including an Independent Spirit Awards nomination.

Casting director Ellen Lewis is responsible for pointing Scorsese to Certain Women, he told The New Yorker, to recommend her for the role of Mollie in Killers of the Flower Moon. “I could see that she trusted in simplicity,” Scorsese told The Hollywood Reporter. It was impressive, and exactly what he was looking for. “She understood her own onscreen presence as an expressive instrument that could speak for itself. That’s quite rare. Her silences, as Mollie, were often more powerful than her words.” He’s not just “obsessed with her,” as Vulture wrote, but speaks highly of Reichardt as well. After he watched a clip on Lewis’ recommendation, he told Sight and Sound, “Then I saw the whole film. I liked the film. I like a lot of what Kelly Reichardt does. I loved First Cow.”

Silence is one of Reichardt’s superpowers as a filmmaker too. Her films do not shy away from long pauses between characters. Many of them follow one character on a quiet solo quest. This gives the audience the choice to fill in those gaps or live with the mystery. She’s a great modern auteur to get into if you aren’t already a fan. Her eight feature films, including Certain Women and First Cow, span genres from comedy to thriller and western. But the thing that holds them together is what Scorsese valued in Gladstone. “An extremely unusual trust in simplicity,” as he told Vulture.

Why does all of this make my heart grow three sizes?

I’ve been struggling with how to articulate it without summoning a chorus of “well actually” from those who think they’re better film nerds than me and my MFA. (Did I say that last part out loud? Oops.) This is what I came up with.

First, I could not be less interested in whatever narrative the internet keeps trying to push with regard to Scorsese and his alleged “feud” with the MCU. People keep digging it up and I’m bored. Criticisms of blockbuster filmmaking are welcome and necessary, but there’s no reason to turn it into a cage match. I don’t view the world in such violent terms, sorry to say!

However, when Scorsese enters the news cycle these days, it’s usually due to a chiding of modern-day Hollywood and praise of classic Hollywood, which can feel a little defeatist. Hear me out! I admire the work that Scorsese has done to preserve and restore film. This work is often invoked in online debates when those who dislike his critiques of superhero films say he’s out of touch or whatever. I love exploring new corners of film history. I agree that we can learn from the past, obviously. He recommends pairing Killers of the Flower Moon with silent films that you aren’t likely to find on a syllabus. You don’t need to sell me on the importance of film restoration and his advocacy. You don’t need to tell me to watch films from before I was born.

But we cannot go back. We can only go forward. How am I supposed to feel any kind of enthusiasm about cinema if I believe the best is behind us? Sorry for getting political but isn’t it bad enough that conservatives aim to send us back to the ’50s? Do I have to hear about how much better it was back in the “good old days” of cinema, too? (Looking at you, Babylon.) To gain a true appreciation for film and your own taste, in my humble opinion, you should try to dip into as many decades, countries, and filmmakers as you can. Suffice to say, I was so, so pleased to hear the words “Kelly Reichardt” and “Certain Women” coming from Scorsese’s mouth.

If you pay attention, Scorsese isn’t actually like that all the time.

How could he be? He’s not so arrogant to think the only person who can make movies like the old masters of cinema is himself. He champions a lot of filmmakers working today and produces independent and/or foreign films as well. We just don’t always hear about it, largely because those aren’t headlines that get clicks. He produced Bradley Cooper’s upcoming Maestro, Danielle Lessovitz’s Port Authority, the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems, Josephine Decker’s Shirley Jackson biopic, and several of Joanna Hogg’s films including The Souvenir. (Hogg is another great director to get into if you’re not familiar with her work. Watch more woman-directed films! She kind of discovered Tom Hiddleston, NBD.)

Scorsese wrote a letter to Bong Joon Ho after the Parasite director’s Oscar win saying that he couldn’t wait to see what he did next. He penned the introduction to a book on Ari Aster’s Midsommar. In an interview with FilmTalk, he cited a 1914 Italian epic and the films of Christopher Nolan in the same breath.

So the next time someone tries to get you to weigh in on the endless “Martin Scorsese hates superhero movies” conversation, pivot to that—to his investment in other important areas of modern cinema. Honestly, just pivot to literally anything else at this point. Pivot to watching Certain Women, an incredible film from an underrated director with a star-making performance from Lily Gladstone!

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Leah Marilla Thomas
Leah Marilla Thomas (she/her) is a contributor at The Mary Sue. She has been working in digital entertainment journalism since 2013, covering primarily television as well as film and live theatre. She's been on the Marvel beat professionally since Daredevil was a Netflix series. (You might recognize her voice from the Newcomers: Marvel podcast). Outside of journalism, she is 50% Southerner, 50% New Englander, and 100% fangirl over everything from Lord of the Rings to stage lighting and comics about teenagers. She lives in New York City and can often be found in a park. She used to test toys for Hasbro. True story!