Director: Martin McDonagh
Nominated For: Best Picture; Best Actress; Best Supporting Actor (twice); Best Original Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is very much a dark comedy and is brilliant in it. I was honestly laughing out loud which is a bit strange given the horrific epicentre of the narrative – a mother trying her damnedest to find the person who raped and killed her teenage daughter. Not a subject that screams laughter and yet Martin McDonagh and has found a way to make it work.
As I said there was laughter throughout, often at inopportune moments, and yet there were also a number of ‘what the heck’ moments too which not only caught me off guard but actually made me really quite emotional (but them I’m a major sap when it comes to crying at movies!)
Frances McDormand’s nomination for Best Actress is richly deserved because she is incredible. She has this tenacity to her and a take no crap attitude that is brilliant to watch. She has no time for these small town folk and isn’t afraid of showing it either. She does however have a surprisingly civil relationship with Woody Harrelson’s character of Chief Willoughby – something that you may not expect from the questions on the billboards. I think it’s quite a frank and honest way of tackling grief – especially as a result of an unexpected and violent end. And not just in terms of Mildred’s response but the response of all those around her who have been affected by the incident.
As much as I love Woody Harrelson I think going off these performances, Sam Rockwell would be the more deserving were he to win Best Supporting Actor. His character, Dixon, has the most visible development throughout the course of film. Indeed he goes from being this red-neck, racist cop with some serious anger issues to actually becoming a half-way decent policeman who finally thinks about others instead of just himself, or his mama. It’s very satisfying to watch his performance. Of course he does provide much of the comedy in the early parts of the film with his ineptitude. But then he becomes so much more than just someone to laugh at, you end up rooting for him to come good and succeed at something. Rockwell actually has some of the most touching moments I found.
But let’s not forget about the supporting cast either because they are all equally brilliant and have a significant role to play. Peter Dinklage is delightful as, as he puts it “the town midget”, James who crops up at odd moments. Caleb Landry Jones is amusing as the advertising man who bears the full displeasure of Rockwell’s Dixon on a number of occasions and yet never takes it to heart.
I often find it difficult to talk about editing and scores because in reality when they are done well you shouldn’t notice them at all. And that was the case with this. The editing was seamless resulting in the narrative flowing perfectly. And the score, by Carter Burwell, was beautiful – perfectly complimenting, and at times enhancing, the feelings being elicited by McDonagh’s stellar writing and the outstanding performances of his cast.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a brilliant film and I’m glad it lived up to the hype that has been surrounding it this award season. However I will say, without giving anything away, that I was kind of left unsatisfied with the ending. Let me know what you think.