Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Tonight I screened Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, starring Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.

Mildred (McDormand) seeks justice for the rape and murder of her daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) in the small town of (fictional) Ebbing, Missouri, where the police—in her view—spend more time hassling minorities than they do solving crimes.

Because the case has gone dormant, she pays to post three billboards asking the police chief (Woody Harrelson) why. This upsets the tight community and she gets grief from the local priest and other townspeople.

The chief is truly on her side, but after suffering another tragedy, she feels she has nowhere to turn and seeks revenge instead of justice. A series of bloody, scary, hilarious (yes, it's all those things) events follows and McDormand pretty much seals up her Oscar nomination.

But she's not the only great player here. Harrelson is tough, yet sincere as the chief whose hands are tied by circumstance; Sam Rockwell as the dim-witted Officer Dixon keeps his character from becoming a caricature by adding dimension through emotion, and Peter Dinklage is the welcome town oddity as the "midget" who is hot for Mildred.

I'd say the stereotypes are a bit much, but I did live in Missouri for five years, and for better or worse, I encountered people who resembled every last one of these folks.

In addition to addressing the horrific themes of sexual assault, racism and domestic violence—so timely considering our current national conversation—it reminds us that not every good person makes smart choices and not every bad apple is without a conscience.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh was inspired to write the film after driving past similar billboards in real life. I shudder to think what prompted their placement. The movie based on them isn't easy to watch, but you won't be able to take your eyes off of it.


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