Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 2017 has been a year for movies that keeps on giving, but one of the biggest presents of all came near the end of the year. Martin McDonagh is a Director that gave us one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, In Bruges, but he has outdone himself with Three Billboards. In Bruges, a darkest of all dark comedies, was no fluke. I have not seen Seven Psychopaths, but I will put it at the top of my list of movies to see. Like his other 2 movies, Three Billboards is also a dark comedy.
This is a movie that keeps the audience invested in the sometimes terrifying dramatic aspects of the film. On the other hand, my sides were literally aching from suppressing laughter throughout this great experience. This tightrope between comedy and tragedy, and between laughter and nervous tension, was hard to negotiate, but McDonagh did it perfectly.
There will be a minimum of spoilers and I will concentrate on the absolutely spellbinding acting and superior screenplay. The main plot was well revealed in the trailers and here it is. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) had been deeply grieving the death of her daughter, who was brutally raped and murdered. After months, no arrests had been made and there were no leads. Mildred decided to take matters in her own hands by renting 3 billboards and putting messages on these billboards that call out the local law enforcement for their failure to solve the case. Law enforcement was not amused and neither was the small town of Ebbing. The battle of wills had begun.
Three Billboards began and ended with Mildred Hayes, a part that was totally owned by Frances McDormand. If you thought McDormand excelled in any of her other performances, you won’t believe how she knocked it out of the universe in this great movie. Mildred had had enough, and Mildred was as steeled, unflinching, relentless and ruthless as they come. Efforts by priests, dentists, local citizens and intimidating law enforcement to get her to stand down were met by flint-hard resolve and seething anger. As she so eloquently told a newscaster, Mildred was not finished, but just getting started.
Francis McDormand was in nearly every scene and every revelation, but the supporting cast in Three Billboards was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Mildred went toe to toe with everyone, but especially with Law Enforcement as represented by the beloved Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), and his bumbling and racist deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell). Harrison was magnificent but Sam Rockwell, as usual, was unbelievable.
Other splendid acting performances were delivered by Red (Caleb Landry Jones), Charlie (John Hawkes), Robbie (Lucas Hedges) and James (Peter Dinklage). Even the bit acting parts were simply amazing. Penelope (Samara Weaving) was the air-headed 19 year old zoo-worker that Mildred’s abusive husband Charlie had run off with. Sandy Martin’s (Momma Dixon) brief roles were both trumpishly-terrifying and uproariously funny at the same time.
The screenplay and direction of Three Billboards was some of the best I’ve ever seen. The film was as unpredictable as it was savagely hilarious and devastatingly poignant. This movie was not a crime film or a ‘whodunit’, but the audience was riveted every single second. McDonagh successfully harvested outrage on both side of the social justice warrior tightrope as the characters developed and surprised us. Those who looked for plot holes will find them as not every question was answered or every desired closure consummated. The small town of Ebbing, Missouri was not presented as a boiling pot, but more like a crowded hot bus, where the residents were just stuck with each other, good or bad.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a stellar film. Francis McDormand deserves a shelf-full of Oscars for this one, but Sam Rockwell is not far behind. It is also hard to put into words just how great the writing and screenplay are. Martin McDonagh needs to make more movies. A lot more.
10.0/10.0 With the Goatesian Seal of Approval for excellence.
Quotes and One Liners:
- “This didn’t put an end to shit, you fucking retard. This is just getting started so why don’t you put that on your Good Morning, fucking Missouri fucking wake-up broadcast, bitch.” -Mildred
- “So how’s it going in the nigger-torturing business, Dixon?” -Mildred
- “It’s ‘person-of-color torturing business, these days, if you want to know” -Dixon
- “Raped While Dying, And Still No Arrests, How Come, Chief Willoughby?” -Mildred
- ” What’s the law on what ya can and can’t say on a billboard? I assume it’s ya can’t say nothing defamatory, and ya can’t say, ‘Fuck’ ‘Piss’ or ‘Cunt’. That right? ” -Mildred
- “Or ‘anus’” -Red
- “I don’t think them billboards is very fair” -Willoughby
- “The time it took you to get out here whining like a bitch, Willoughby, some other poor girl’s probably out there being butchered.” -Mildred
- “Don’t say ‘what’, Dixon, when she comes in and calls you a ‘fuckhead’” -Desk Sergeant