2018 in Cinema:
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2018
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage
From the writer and director of the hilarious dark comedy, In Bruges, Martin McDonagh has presented us with another dark comedy in the form of Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, about a mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand), who is still grieving the loss of her teenage daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton), and is angry at the local police for not having found a killer some nine months later. This forces Mildred to hire three billboards, with one saying ‘RAPED WHILE DYING’, the second ‘AND STILL NO ARRESTS?’ with the third and final one asking ‘HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?’ The billboards naturally upset the aforementioned Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, War for the Planet of the Apes) as well as many of the town’s residents, most of whom are fond of Willoughby.
Three Billboards is a very good film, and a very funny film, if you’re a fan of dark comedies, but it has so much more going for it beneath the exterior of a sad and angry woman trying to antagonise the police into action. For the most part this is very well executed, as it adds layers to the story and allows more of the world to come through, but in some parts it does have a slightly negative impact on the film. My biggest grievance, helped in part by the amount of stuff going on, is how so few of the storylines have a happy ending. I am certainly not one to demand happy endings (you should try reading anything I’ve ever written for proof) but the film poses so many questions and avenues for characters to explore but then are soon forgotten about or left with a disappointing ending: Willoughby’s storyline, Mildred’s date, Dixon’s (Sam Rockwell) whole story, they all generally have a pretty harrowing end, and for so many of them it did have a bit of a sad aftertaste. Also, so much stuff happens in this town (from buildings being blown up to the billboards being blown up to Angela’s rape and an attempted murder) yet nobody seems to be arrested for anything.
But that minor grape aside, the film was brilliant. Frances McDormand shines as Mildred, Sam Rockwell is brilliant as Dixon (and I was a bit worried initially as his character was presented early on as a comedy figure so it was nice to see his character actually get an arc) and everyone else plays their roles effectively, from Woody Harrelson to Caleb Landry Jones, who plays Red Welby, the man who okays Mildred’s signs. And not only are all the characters well acted by those portraying them, but the dialogue and the writing for them all shines through, coming across with an air of realism with Mildred’s anger. From a series of notes that Willoughby leaves to the subtle storytelling in their dialogue, this was a very well written film by a very capable writer.
A great score, some great acting and some hilarious moments (even if most of the comedy was ruined by the trailer), Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is certainly worth the watch, and will no doubt be a big player at the upcoming Oscars, as it did at the Golden Globes.
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