Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

[Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated in 6 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell have been nominated in this category), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.]

You wouldn’t even think in your wildest dreams what this movie could be about with such a long, routine, yet bizarre title. Yet, when it starts off and you finally know what it is about, you think, “Oh, of course it could be about this.” It is that difficult to figure out this film, and that easy. Really.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is about, well, three billboards outside the town of Ebbing, Missouri. When mother of raped and murdered teenager Angela Hayes, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) chances upon these billboards, she finds in them a way to get the authorities to do something about it. Especially Police Chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).

But Willoughby is a good man. Willoughby’s subordinate Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a drunk pain in the ass but Willoughby sympathizes with him. Thanks to this soft spot, Dixon cannot take it when anyone does anything against Willoughby. Once the billboards come up, the horrified residents of the town rally behind Willoughby, almost antagonizing Mildred, who is left with almost no one to fall back upon except a few people not including her ex-husband.

What follows is whether Willoughby manages to bring the criminal to justice? Will Mildred be able to give her daughter the peace that everyone craves for in death? Will Dixon be able to stop being a pain in the ass and be useful instead? What happens? Just what exactly happens in this movie?

The first thing I’ll say about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that every Oscar nomination is perfectly justified. From Frances McDormand’s justifiably angry, calculating, prepared Mildred to Woody Harrelson’s apologetic Bill Willoughby to Sam Rockwell’s hot-headed, unapologetic, and racist Jason Dixon – ‘convincing’ is a very amateur word to describe these stellar performances. I’m not making any predictions but Sam Rockwell has a great chance of winning in his category this time!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has a brand of humor that can hardly be classified into a category. It is close to dark humor, but you cannot exactly call it that. And there were multiple points in the film where everyone in the theater simultaneously burst into laughter. Director Martin McDonagh perfectly blends every element into its place and it shows on screen, shows how screenplay, direction, acting, and editing can come together in a dance as heartbreaking as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The screenplay is crisp and to the point, giving us shots that will probably chill your bones. They are not gross or gory, merely detailed. For example, when Mildred sits outside her house on the swings in her lawn, you can see the backs of the three billboards in the distance. Make of it what you will, but this particular shot is so emotional for me, for some reason. Mildred can see the reminder of the violation meted out to her daughter every single day. And not once does she lose hope.

I cannot say the background score was lilting, given the storyline, but it was beautiful when coupled with the story. You will find meaning in the lyrics – so poetically heartbreaking, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Almost.

And to top it all off, the editing. Editing is something that combines all the elements on screen in a fashion that outdoes every other competitor. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a worthy competitor to all the others in this category.

So I’d say, you go and watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It is a thought-provoking film and with its open ending, it will give you hope and a scope to believe. And isn’t that what modern cinema is all about?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Charlotte County Florida Weekly.

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