STARS: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes
DIRECTOR: Martin McDonagh
GENRE: Dark Comedy/Drama
Think of how hard it is to get through life without making a wrong move. Or a boatload of them. Next to impossible. It's not easy in the movies either, which portray life in a manner that involves a lot more forethought than most of us use in our real life decisions. It's easier to go off the rails than not. Wrong moves in casting...pacing...length...effectiveness of the message--if there even is one, etc. That's why it's rare to find a movie that makes all the right moves from start to finish--and that film is 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which deftly balances the darkly comical aspects of its characters with the serious drama they create.
A young woman has been raped and murdered. The perpetrator has not been caught. The victim's mother, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), is a feisty old firebrand (the townsfolk have other names for her) who has grown weary of the lack of progress since many moons ago in solving the case, and she's out to hold the local sheriff, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), accountable. This she will do in a big way, by renting out three billboards that remind the locals of the crime, and call the sheriff out by name.
Sheriff Willoughby is well-liked in the town, and there are folks who want Mildred to shut her trap. And some will try to do it for her. One of them is officer Jason Dixon, a mama's boy and a racist, with a penchant for violence. Sam Rockwell plays him to clueless perfection, and that's why when Dixon actually stumbles upon a major clue--as things really begin to heat up--he becomes a more interesting and unpredictable character. It's the unexpected twists and turns of 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that are part of the reason why it's so good. Along with providing tasty food for thought in asking the question: Should one man pay for another man's crime, solely because it appears he may have committed a similar evil?
Frances McDormand will undoubtedly receive an Oscar nomination for her work here--and I wouldn't be surprised to see Rockwell and Harrelson joining her. And let's go on record as predicting a Best Picture nomination as well. That's what comes when you make all the right moves and go down the right roads right up till the end...which, by the way, is as poignantly perfect as any I can recall.
Dammit, Tim. Our readers prefer these joint reviews when we disagree. But that won't happen this time as I couldn't agree with you more. Except perhaps for the movie's lengthy title. (Three Billboards would've worked just as well.) The one element you didn't mention that I just loved was the score. Carter Burwell has outdone himself this time. I'm not at all surprised that he also created the musical background for another cinematic gem that was set in a small town with a bumbling sherriff's deparment:Fargo.
But since Tim has covered just about everything I would've written, I want to digress. About a month ago, I was watching "Real TimeWith Bill Maher" on HBO. He and Woody Harrelson were reminiscing about the good old days when they were both pot smokers. Apparently Harrleson has been clean now for a year. Maher remarked that his friend's new weed-free status had undoubtedly upped Woody's film-making energy! (I would have to agree since we've reviewed him in three major movies in the last three months: The Glass Castle, LBJ and nowThree Billboards.) Right on, Woody. Right on!
What I admired most about Three Billboards was its unexpected twists and turns. I'm not one of these movie-goers who automatically predicts outcomes before they happen. Many of my movie buddies are which often makes me feel like a mental sloth. But I challenge any of them to guess the outcomes in this flick! (Full credit belongs to English director/writer Martin McDonagh.)
If for no other reason than you are addicted to "Game of Thrones," go see this movie for the wonderful cameo by Peter Dinklage.