Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
There was a bit of hype around this movie, especially with award season coming up, so I wanted to make an effort to go check it out before it left theaters. Its cast is pretty impressive but I wasn’t sure if the movie would hook me. Let’s discuss.
Mildred (Frances McDormand) lost her daughter, who was raped and burned to death. It’s been months and the police department in her small town of Ebbing, Missouri have given up. Police Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) has no solid leads. Mildred decides to put up three billboards on the outskirts of town calling out the Chief, which leads to a series of intense back and forth interactions. We also have another police officer (Sam Rockwell) who starts to spiral out of control, as well as Mildred’s son (Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea) who gets drawn into the controversy of the signs as well.
Other stars include Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones, Zeljko Ivanek, and Peter Dinklage.
There are some definite award nominees here, most notably Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. McDormand is vicious, in the way most mothers would be in this scenario. She’s unpredictable and vengeful and absolutely a blast to watch. Rockwell delivers a more complicated performance, you’re never quite sure how to feel about his character and his arc here is super fascinating. Rockwell is a solid pick for Supporting Actor, no doubt.
The tone of the movie is really interesting, similar to the other movies by director Martin McDonagh like In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. It’s witty and sharp but also unpredictably wild at times.
The murder mystery at play here is also really intriguing, as we slowly learn more about what happened. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as the movie twists and turns.
What doesn’t work?
The biggest detractor for me is that the movie doesn’t quite have the resolution most mainstream audiences will want. I don’t want to spoil much but when the credits rolled, I was left very much unsatisfied. And that’s a bummer because this movie was an absolute joy before that. The movie “is about the journey,” says the director, but many audiences won’t find peace with that.
I also found one performance hollow and distracting, that of Abbie Cornish, who plays the wife to Woody Harrelson. Every time she was on screen, it felt inauthentic. Her more emotional moments didn’t ring true for me and detracted from the payoff of those moments.
This movie was close to being amazing, I loved most of the film leading up the final moments but the movie ultimately lost me. Those of you with a willingness to embrace the mystery (and if you don’t need resolution) will likely love this movie even more than I did. There are a few Oscar-worthy performances, so if you want to be keen on those picks, consider checking this out in the next few weeks.