Tuesday, November 28, 2017

[Review] Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three cheers for the ornately titled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Martin McDonagh's film is a darkly comic, potently tragic, and thoroughly entertaining display that features a prominent, tour de force performance from the great Frances McDormand.

The plot revolves around, yes -- three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Igniting the cause is Mildred (McDormand) -- a bold, brash, and relentless mother seeking justice for the rape and murder of her teenage daughter Angela. Mildred slyly uses the billboards to send a message to the local police (greatly played by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell), and a hostile, ongoing dispute shakes the town.

It's a film that'll make you angry. It'll make you laugh. And it might make you well up. It's so well-written, and the rough-around-the-edges characters are developed with striking personality and vivid dimension. This is a film of jarring surprises and poetically harsh ironies. Each scene crackles with conflict, tension, and sharp and snappy dialogue that usually consists of Mildred certifiably roasting her counterparts. Frances McDormand is phenomenal here. It's a legendary performance in my eyes --  it's as serious as it is hilarious, and as tough as it is emotionally wrenching. John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea, Lady Bird) round out the superb supporting cast.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a small-town story, but it burns with resonant and relevant themes, sending smoke signals of scathing commentary on abuse of power, racism, predators, hypocrisy, and misplaced priorities. At a time when it seems like some people are more upset about what NFL players do or don't do during the National Anthem than they are about folks spewing hatred and raising Nazi flags, Three Billboards points to a much bigger picture.

* 9/10 *

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