“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” dir. Martin McDonagh
After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon, an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” made a huge splash, winning the coveted People’s Choice Award over many of the festival favorites such as “Call Me By Your Name,” “Lady Bird,” and “The Shape of Water.” Since then, the film has gotten a significant amount of buzz through rave reviews from critics and pundits considering it an awards frontrunner. It’s very easily for a film with this much hype can lead to disappointment, but after seeing the film three times now, it can safely be said that all of that acclaim is completely warranted.
This is only Martin McDonagh’s third feature following 2008’s “In Bruges” and 2012’s “Seven Psychopaths,” both of which are excellent dark comedies anchored by the unexpected depth of the central characters. With “Three Billboards,” McDonagh’s writing continues to improve as this is his most fleshed out and well-realized film to date. He offers up a large cast that have a real authenticity within this small town in Missouri. From Woody Harrelson to Peter Dinklage, no one feels out of place, adding so much to the lived-in atmosphere.
In a performance that might earn her a second Academy Award, Frances McDormand is a force of nature. Mildred Hayes could have easily come off as despicable and tough to root for had the role gone into the wrong hands, but McDormand knows how to sell those moments where her actions could be seen as questionable. She has such a commanding screen presence throughout the entire runtime that adds a lot to both the hilarious comedy and brutal emotion.
For years, Sam Rockwell has been one of the great actors working in Hollywood and his role as Officer Dixon is possibly his most complex to date. His comedic timing is sharp while never crossing the line where he can’t be taken seriously when the heavy drama kicks in. Without giving too much away, his character arc is one of the most satisfying of the year. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Best Supporting Actor race will pan out between Willem Dafoe’s soulful work in “The Florida Project” and Rockwell’s mesmerizing performance here.
At it’s core, this is about a woman and her determination to remain vocal in her pursuit for justice. In the current climate of brave men and women are speaking publicly to expose sexual predators, calling upon those with power to bring productive change and hold them accountable for their disgusting behavior, this film couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As soon as this hits a theater near you, run out and see it. Simply put, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is an absolute triumph.
Have you seen “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri?” Are you a fan of Martin McDonagh’s previous work? Let me know in the comments section below.
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