Written and directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is billed as a comedy, crime, drama. It’s been seven months since Mildred’s (McDormand’s) daughter has been brutally tortured, raped and murdered, and Mildred wants answers. She sets out on a mission to prompt local authorities to find the answers she so desperately needs by renting three billboards on the outskirts of town on which she posts a message to the local police in order to keep the case a top priority. The result is an escalating war between Mildred and the Ebbing police department, and the town takes sides.
The comedy includes some bad words, including “the N word”. I do not mention it because the use of the word offends me. I mention this specifically because as one of the few black people in the theater, what I noticed about the people seated immediately around me was, if I didn’t laugh out loud no one did. And I laughed because the jokes were just too funny not to laugh – but that was a weird experience for me. (It was as if the non black people were taking social cues from me; waiting for me to grant them permission to laugh out loud when the N word was used.) Anyway, the word wasn’t carelessly thrown about, it wasn’t used often and, the word was properly corrected in a humorous way whenever it was used. Even some of the more tragic moments were comedic. Suffice to say, the humor here is a bit “blue,” so if that isn’t your thing, this is not the movie for you.
The crime is heartbreaking. Frances McDormand really allows you to get inside the head and heart of a mother who is obsessed with and grieving over the unsolved murder of her child. She becomes a bad-ass superhero who will not let up until someone tells here who killed her child. She is a mother who will go to any lengths to light a fire under these local, small town police officers.
The drama is consistently high throughout the film and even increases toward the end. I didn’t know which way this story was going to go at any given point and I certainly had no idea how it all would end. There are quite a few shocking scenes. There is nothing predictable or boilerplate about this movie.
The writing is strong as it intertwines the humor, crime and drama constantly, never getting too heavy in any one area. Not only are the humor, crime and drama artfully interwoven throughout the story, most of the characters fluctuate between humor, crime (talking about this crime, their obsession with the crime or in a few instances, committing a new crime) and drama. It was an enjoyable hour and 55 minutes and I very nearly applauded at the end. (Guess I was taking social cues from those around me at that point.)
McDormand and the rest of the cast deliver amazing performances, but McDormand stands out because of how powerfully written her character is and how exceptionally she performs. The rest of the cast does an outstanding job as nearly every role requires waxing and waning between drama and comedy, and they nail it.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri earned 8.5 out of 10 bloops. McDormand’s excellent, must-see performance pushes it up to a 9. It is a fantastic film that’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it a great deal. It is one of those thoughtfully done projects where the great care taken to execute it shows in all aspects of the film; the writing, acting, directing, cinematography, scenery, props, wardrobe, makeup – everything about Three Billboards pays off.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
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