Released: 1st January 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 6th February 2018
Directed & Written by: Martin McDonagh
Produced by: Blueprint Pictures, Film 4 & Fox Searchlight Pictures
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson & Lucas Hedges
Mildred Hayes (Played by Frances McDormand) is a woman going through hell. 7 months ago her daughter was raped and murdered and she’s still not heard anything from Chief Willoughby (Played by Woody Harrelson) so, in an attempt to force his hand, she rents out 3 billboards for a year with a simple message “Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come, Chief Willoughby?”. Her billboards certainly get the attention of the cops. In particular, they get the attention Officer Dixon (Played by Sam Rockwell) who is a drunken racist with more interest in getting the billboards taken down than actually solving the murder. What ensues is a war between a grieving mother trying to get answers about the rape and murder of her daughter… and the cops who want to stop being insulted.
Frances McDormand is going to win the Oscar for this role. Let’s just accept that now, let’s prepare to pretend to be shocked when her name is called because what she is doing here is amazing. Her character is trying to work through the grief of losing her child and seeing her go between these moments of pure pain with glimmers of perverse joy that she’s actually getting people to finally pay attention… there’s something special here that is going to get her that award. The combination of great comedic moments, like her attempt to talk with a mouth full of novocaine, to her more intense dramatic moments blend perfectly and create this fascinating woman who shut herself off from everyone.
Woody Harrelson is also a pure gem, every scene with him as Chief Willoughby has so much hidden behind his eyes once he makes a very surprising reveal that propels his character forward. It’s actually heartbreaking what his character deals with and scenes where he tries to implore Mildred to take the billboards down because he is genuinely trying his best make you feel for him so much and understand that he’s trying his best… but he’s also defending a literal torturer and oh god that’s awkward.
Yeah, I don’t know how to word this any other way than to say that I do not get what Sam Rockwell is doing as Dixon. So much about his character irritates me, from the fact that he dances like he’s in a club to the song Chiquitita by Abba (A notably NOT dancy song in their catalogue) to his open and flagrant abuses of power. We’re talking he explicitly tortured people of color, that’s literally a thing that everyone knows happened and he still has his job… making him the most realistic character in the movie. Look, I’m sorry but if a cop did any of the things that this guy did, he’d be at very least heavily scrutinised before being released without charges. This guy barely get’s the slap on the wrist that other’s get. Also, just not fond of his drunken acting. I thought it was weird when he won the Globe over Plummer, now I’m just wondering if everyone else took crazy pills.
That stuff about the cops and the abuses of power is perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about this film. It’s not even that they are abusing their power, which they are and it’s an objective statement to call it that… but that we’re meant to, at some point, sympathise with these abusive cops and I just can’t and won’t be doing that. Not when there is no real justification for why I should. It feels like at some point there was, maybe the script got cut in half because there are a few moments where it feels as though certain plots and storylines aren’t fully developed, but it certainly feels like they needed to give me more reason to give a damn about Officer Dixon and the rest of the fuckheads (Their words, not mine)
One of the now trademarks in a Matin McDonough script is his colourful use of language, I’m pretty sure that In Bruges comes with a counter on the screen to check how many times the word ‘cunt’ is said but in that movie, those words were parts of jokes and enhanced the comedy. I’m no prude when it comes to language, I’ll say fuck like a motherfucker but in Three Billboards it very often feels like the jokes are the swear words. It’s not even that they’re gratuitous, they just stop being funny after a while and once you lose that initial laugh it makes the later jokes not work quite as well. This might be one of his weaker scripts which is a shame because the concept and characters are (Mostly) fascinating and could’ve really lent themselves to a much better script.
While Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is certainly a good movie, downright great in some parts, it’s not as amazing as it seemed upon the trailers and with the endless praise it’s gotten, like it was the second coming of Christ or something There are long slogs of the film that feel like they were not properly thought out and jokes that just don’t work. Also, there’s a criminal underuse of Peter Dinklage which needs to stop happening just in general. It’s not great, but it’s good and you will absolutely enjoy it… just don’t go in there expecting it to be the greatest thing ever like it’s been hyped to be, it’s not quite fully baked just yet.