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Three Billboards is a dark but also funny and heart-felt story about one woman's quest to get justice for her daughter's rape and murder. After Mildred Haynes buys three billboards with words written on them accusing the town's well-liked sheriff of having not found her daughter's killer, it sets a series of events that turns the citizens and the cops against her.
The thing I can say about Three Billboards without going into spoilers is that it is wildly unpredictable. One moment you think things are going one direction as expected then it takes hard left turn that only adds to the dynamic between the characters. As the pressure within the town builds and anger is pointed towards Mildred, we see many of these characters evolve in order to deal with tragedy and grief and learn to find peace. And the movie goes through a roller-coaster of emotions. One moment you are laughing your butt off from the hilarious dialogue then you feel like someone just punched you in the gut. With every victory you think this story brings you feel like it was taken away from because of the world's unfairness and injustice. In lesser hands the mixture of dark and comedic tones would not work, but director and writer Martin McDonagh knows how to balance them to perfection.
The performances here just through the roof. Frances McDormand delivers a performance that will for sure get her into the Lead Actress awards race at the Oscars. As Mildred, McDormand just cuts loose with her performance with every line of hate, cynicism and cursing towards everyone she feels doesn't truly understand the internal pain she is going through. But McDormand does now and then show a soft side to Mildred. It shows that Mildred is just person like everyone who has her own way of dealing with the tragedy of loosing her own child. And Sam Rockwell also gives one of the best performances of his career as the flawed and very misguided cop Dixon. The character of Dixon is short-tempered, volatile, and not bright with some baggage of his own that the locals accuse him of. But Sam Rockwell brings his charm and sincerity to what could be a rather unlikable character. And in the latter half, you see Dixon go through a tremendous arc of learning to care about others rather then just being angry towards them. Other great performances that should be called out are Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, John Hawk and Caleb Landry Jones.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is easily one of the best movies this year and is worth seeing once it comes out in wide releases.
What begins as a narrow and focused drama, gradually escalates to a film with big themes and ideas, relevant social commentary, and much more subplots than anticipated. "Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri" is packed with questions and a few answers about anger, revenge, violence, and kindness. The story shows people in a realistic light I've never quite seen before. We're presented with characters and their genuine emotions. Nothing feels sugarcoated of fluffed but it never lacks emotional impact either.
The movie balances its seemingly contradictory tones beautifully by crafting a dark comedy that feels heavy due to strong subject matter, while at the same time, utilizing comedic moments that feel completely natural to the character's motivations. It's obvious great care was taken into this script and the method in which it's constructed.
One of the most talked about elements to this film are the strong performances; particularly by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Rightfully so, this is some of their best (if not their best) work these eyes have beheld and they steal the show in every film they're in. That's not take away from Woody Harrelson and Lucas Hedges, as well as the entire cast who give memorable performances and paint shockingly believable characters that we feel we know personally.
If there is anything that might turn audiences away from this film, it might be its harsh subject matter despite none of it every being depicted as well as its language and execution with the material. Personally, this has a strong impact and I wouldn't have changed anything about it. It's a highly recommended film with a lot to ponder at the end and is definitely a contender for best movie of the year. Definitely don't miss this one.
Title (Brazil): "Três Anúncios Para um Crime" ("Three Billboards for a Crime")
Mildred Hayes (McDormand) is disgusted that the police haven't found her daughter's rapist and killer, so she takes out billboards asking why the chief of police, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) hasn't done anything about the case.
The billboards set off anger, violence, and revenge motifs in this small town. Things become worse when a pent-up police officer, Dixon (Sam Rockwell) becomes enraged and starts acting out.
Lots of swearing, lots of violence, and lots of laughs to be had in this film. It was strange to watch as I had just seen another film, Past Life, that focused on the subject of anger and pain, and how it can eat a person up and destroy them. This film is yet another good illustration of that, as Mildred stops at nothing to make a point.
The one-liners are amazing, and Mildred's speech to the priest who comes by to ask her to remove the billboards is hilarious. The movie is filled with strong performances and equally well-developed characters. We see all of their sides - violent, kind, vengeful, angry, sad; we finally realize they're just people driven in some cases to extremes.
Harrelson's performance is touching -- we're prepared to dislike him but his sincerity and humanity come through. As Dixon, Rockwell seems like a monster, but once he acts out, he's able to focus his energy a little better.
And then there's McDormand, a powerhouse. She's not good ol' Marge in Fargo. She's a tough woman with a broken heart who takes out her anger any way she can. It's a beautiful, multilayered performance. Highly recommended, asking the questions of where revenge and hatred can take us, and deciding when and if it stops.
The part of Mildred Hayes was written with McDormand in mind. Hayes is a divorced single mother, living with her son on the outskirts of a small, remote town. She had a daughter too, but the girl was raped and killed on a quiet mountain road not far from home. Frustrated by the lack of progress of the investigation, Hayes decides to rent three dilapidated billboards, publicly accusing the local police chief of incompetence. By doing so, she attracts the attention of the media, angers almost the entire town and causes a succession of increasingly violent actions.
Although the film is about grief, anger, revenge and violence, it is extremely funny. Above all because of Mildred Hayes' stubborn character and her ability to verbally humiliate people by her extremely sharp tongue. The monologue she delivers when a priest visits her house to tell her she has gone too far, is priceless.
Apart from McDormand's performance, the screenplay is another great feature of this film. The story is full of unexpected twists, gradually shifting the positions of the main characters towards each other. None of the characters are one-dimensional: they all reveal surprising parts of their personalities as the story moves forward.
And then there is the overall, almost Coen-esque atmosphere of a small town full of colourful characters. There is a racist cop, a friendly midget, a smart advertising guy and a pretty girl who is so dumb she doesn't know the difference between polo and polio.
It is hard to mention something negative about this film. 'Three Billboards' is, from start to finish, a great movie. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it.
Writer/director Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges) has outdone himself with this one. In my opinion, if this isn't one of the top Oscar contenders come awards season, then Hollywood has officially lost its mind.
Basically everything about this film works: from the acting, to the writing, to the direction. Mcdormand gives the performance of her career here, giving us humor through all the pain clearly shown on her face. Rockwell also gives his best performance here as a cop who isn't that bright and is more than a little racist.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is probably the most unpredictable film of the year, and that's coming from a year that includes films like Baby Driver and Logan. There are scenes where you think that you know where the plot is going, but then midway through it completely flips the script.
For the entire run-time of this film, I was invested. It has the perfect run-time; it ends exactly when it needs to and there is not a scene that feels out of place.
It seems like one of the hardest things to do in film nowadays is to balance comedy and drama. However, this movie does it effortlessly. Each scene has just the right amount of comedy and drama, and sometimes, despite the fact that you're laughing, it's easy to forget that jokes are being made.
Also, the message that this film gives off resonates very powerfully with you after the film finishes. It makes you see the good side in humanity, despite our flaws. No character in this film is a cliché one-dimensional shell of a person. Everybody has a reason for being there, which is more than some films recently have offered.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is easily one of the best and most enjoyable films of 2017, and it will make you laugh, cry, and think all in one sitting. There are not any clear flaws with this film that I can find, but I am still searching.
I give Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri an A+.
Three giant billboards THAT close to the road and THAT close together - I've driven all over the country and never saw that. Billboards in rural areas tend to be smaller and definitely not that close together for obvious reasons.
WHO is this woman, Mildred? We know literally nothing about her beside the fact that her daughter was murdered. Eventually we find out she's divorced and has a son who lives with her, but if one is to care about the protagonist, character development is crucial. As it is, it's interesting to watch her do and say crazy stuff, but I couldn't care less about her.
WHY is it, two male characters directly related to the protagonist have a girlfriend & wife 20+ years their junior? Do they live in a part of the country where such a thing is commonplace? What are the odds of that? Probably about the same as if your dentist won the lottery but then your mailman did also. Yes, possible, but very, very odd and distracting.
Why does Willoughby's wife have an English accent? Was he in the military and met her while overseas? Is it common for a small town in Missouri to have British accented residents? If there was ANY character development, maybe we'd know these things. As it is, it's distracting and elicits questions that shouldn't have to be asked.
$5000/month for three previously forgotten about, decrepit billboards on a road people don't use anymore? LOL. For someone who is supposed to be a savvy, tough, non-nonsense older lady with the wisdom of the Buddha, that's pretty dumb.
A cop smashes office windows, assaults a man and throws him out a 2nd story window with no jail time. Really?!
Why does Willoughby have fatal cancer? Seems as no more than a cheap device used to heap more disdain on Mildred. Yawn.
Dixon ends up in the same hospital room as the man he assaulted? Is that supposed to be ironic? And again, what are the odds?
Mildred firebombs the police station, nearly kills a cop, and then just says "I didn't do it" and that's the end of it?! Really?
Some creepy stranger visits Mildred in her store and harasses her, THEN is overheard in a bar talking about committing a crime, maybe the crime in question, but alas even after Dixon cleverly retrieves dna from the guy, it turns out he's not even a local, and wasn't around when the crime occurred. Why then does the creepy guy know so much about the crime in question and WHY is he harassing Mildred!?!?!?! WHY?
Then to top off ALL that nonsense, Dixon and Mildred decide to go murder the creepy guy anyway, LOL, how profound.
--Most strikingly the (deputy?) Chief Dixon violently attacks Welby, busts his face with his gun, throws him out of a window and proceeds to kick him while he's down, all in eyes view of the new Chief Abercrombie. Sure, he gets fired. But not arrested? Not even sued?
--And as for Abercrombie. He shows up the morning after the previous Police Chief died and declares that "they" sent him as a replacement. They who? Is there some force outside of Ebbing that dictates who their police chief is? That part really didn't make any sense to me. Also, replacing one of the main characters halfway through the film, a character we're starting to get to know, with a stereotype that we don't know anything about, was rather odd.
--Someone lights the billboards on fire. But apparently only the paper on them burns, not the old wood that's been sitting there decaying since the 80s, because they are able to paste duplicate posters to the existing structures without any problems. That's laughable. That old wood would have been a pile of smoldering cinder.
--Mildred is portrayed as such a tough-ass, assaulting a dentist, kicking children in the crotch (with no repercussions I might add), storming into the police station spouting vulgarities, but when she's confronted by a guy who suggests he's actually the one who killed her daughter, she freezes and seems helpless. One might say the fact that she didn't go psycho in this scene is what makes this screenplay original but someone else, like me, might argue that it's just out of her character and doesn't make a lick of sense.
--Chief Willoughby for some reason is an old geezer but has a young, attractive Australian wife. He also has two young girls. Yet he's completely vulgar around them. While instructing them about a game of fishing he invents, he calls the blanket they are sitting on the "god-dam blanked"--twice--to little four or five year old girls. He says to his wife later that it's her turn to "clean the horse *hit" out of the barn. OK, I actually have quite a bit of experience tending horses. It's not called "*hit" it's called manure and you wouldn't even call it that--you'd just say "clean the barn" if you really owned horses. The writing of his character, other than the scene between him and McDormand while they were sitting on the swings, was actually horrible.
--Mildred burns the police station down, throwing 5 Molotov cocktails out of the still broken windows of the advertising agency across the street (not boarded up by then?). And the new Chief just accepts the explanation that she didn't do it because she was with James. No more investigation. Ho hum. Police station burned but oh well. And then a few scenes later, Dixon is apparently in the suppose to be burned down police station sitting there having a conversation with the new Chief.
--Dixon is a complete jerk to the bone. He gets a letter postmortem from the now deceased Chief. Suddenly he's a good guy. Yeah right.
I could go on and on with this but I'm afraid my word limit here is going to expire soon. I'll still give this film a 7 star rating because I DID enjoy watching it, but the writing here is really not all it's cracked up to be. It does feel like it's a big novel with a lot of twists, but in retrospect it's more like a parody of a big novel with a lot of twists, and the twists don't make a whole lot of sense.
It is basically a string of mean people going along and doing mean things, to no end. Nobody learns anything, the little growth that does occur is quite forced, and a lot of it doesn't seem very grounded in reality.
The tone is confused, bouncing back and forth between Nickelodeon comedy and a dark drama, making it hard to take seriously. Woody Harrelson seemed to care so little about his voice-over work in the middle of the film, but that's understandable when the writers didn't seem to care much either.
The editing wasn't great and offered unclear communication at times. I don't know who picked Abbie Cornish for this, or anything, as she is an exceptionally poor actress.
I think we're supposed to be emphasizing with the main character, but that's hard to do when she's a callous wrecking ball. Making a film about a parent dealing with trauma of this nature is a great premise, but there's a certain humanity lacking.
I disconnected with this film when she didn't take the billboards down the moment her friend got arrested. I assumed it was a given- how could you let your friend rot away in jail while this futile ploy of yours is the single cause? And how was the friend OK with that upon being released? This is not a strong person, this is a petty and immature person who is seeking solace purely for selfish reasons. It is also completely overlooked that she is harming her still-alive son throughout the course of all this.
Finally, we have one scene with Mildred's daughter, who is the cause of all events that take place in the film. Not only was the actress incapable of carrying this scene, but it was also hard to believe she was the daughter of Mildred.
Overall, an unaware film that seemed to try to be catering to the current political climate.
McDonagh's strategy is to appeal to both liberals and conservatives but in the end he remains squarely in the liberal camp. He serves up absurd characters that appeal to the baser elements in our culture but infuses them with "hearts of gold" so they appear to straddle both liberal and reactionary fences, but actually exist in none.
Take for example his main character, Mildred Hayes (played by a haggard-looking, one-note Frances McDormand) who puts up the three billboards outside of town, frustrated by Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and his small town police department's inability to catch the man who murdered her daughter seven months earlier. The foul-mouthed Hayes functions outside the law and McDonagh throws a bone to reactionaries, asking us to approve of Hayes' desire for revenge and endorsement of vigilantism.
McDonagh's other rebel is Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a racist who tries to top Hayes in her quest to be the top-rated anti-social misfit in town. First he arrests Hayes' co- worker pal Denise on trumped up marijuana possession charges and after he learns of Sheriff Willoughby's suicide following the revelation of a cancer diagnosis, he goes after Red (the man responsible for renting the billboards to Hayes) and throws him out a second floor window (instead of arresting him, the new black police chief merely fires him! What's up with that?).
Just like Hayes, Dixon finds a scapegoat to assuage his guilt over Sheriff's Willoughby's death. When Hayes finds her billboards ablaze, she naturally pins the blame on Dixon and firebombs police headquarters.
It's at this point that McDonagh rather simplistically attempts to redeem his protagonists. The saintly, all- knowing Willoughby, in a letter he leaves for Dixon after his death, reassures the errant former officer that he's not such a bad guy after all, provided that he gives up his bigoted ways.
After Dixon survives the firebombing at the police station where he went to read Willoughby's letter, he decides to help Hayes after overhearing a potential suspect who might have killed her daughter. During a fight with the suspect in the bar, he manages to obtain the man's DNA. In an original plot twist, the DNA does not match and the potential murderer is ruled out as a suspect in Hayes' daughter's death.
With Hayes apologizing to Dixon for the firebombing of the police station (she escapes being charged aided by an alibi from a dwarf who lives in town), the two vigilantes make their way to Idaho to seek revenge on the now ruled out suspect in Hayes' daughter's death, as they are convinced he's guilty of other crimes of rape, and deserves punishment.
McDonagh, however, is uneasy with the idea that Hayes and Dixon would actually go through with their extra-judicial act-so he throws in a caveat. As they're talking to one another in the car, it's probably the unheard voice of the goodly Sheriff Willoughby which is still in the air. Hayes and Dixon express doubts about actually going through with the plan-the implication of course is that they will not engage in another act of violence-that they in fact have "learned their lesson," and now are ready to act as law-abiding citizens.
It might be reassuring to a liberal audience that the bad guys suddenly become "good-that there is a measure of redemption for the two who have become unhinged by the deaths of people close to them. In reality, vigilantes remain vigilantes, and such reversals in outlook are highly unlikely. But even if one accepts the improbable Deus ex machina, McDonagh's willingness to excuse all the prior bad conduct, suggests a crack in the screenwriter's moral compass.
Ultimately, McDonagh wants his quirk-fest both ways. He revels in the bad acts of vigilantism, appealing to the aforementioned "baser instincts"; but offers up redemption for his bad actors, in the form of a martyred lawman, who like a saint from above, offers words of wisdom for the ages.
The punch lines are to the point and absolutely hilarious. I went to the Toronto International Film Festival to watch this movie and boy, do I consider myself lucky to have decided to watch it.
The story, screenplay, direction are amazing. After The Grand Budapest Hotel, this movie comes as a breath of fresh air.
The performances in "Three Billboards" saves this film from itself. Frances McDormand, while not breaking new ground in her character, she is a joy to watch, as always. Sam Rockwell is the most disturbingly enjoyable performance to watch as his behavior is so uncomfortable that one has to wonder how he got into such a mental state to be so unappealing. Woody, too, carries some of the most intense scenes in the film with a fantastic portrayal as Chief Bill Willoughby.
Where this film loses me is in its unnecessary and unsuccessful attempt to be "quirky" and toy with its audience. It's such an embarrassing attempt at "artsy" that it comes across a first-year screenwriter trying entirely too hard to be "edgy." Yes, I get that irony of having "Ebbing" as the fictitious name of the city in Missouri in which this whole story takes place, as the entire perception and emotions of the main characters ebb and flow throughout the film, confusing the viewer into developing a belief or emotions about a character before zig-zagging into a completely altered perception of the character. This intentional mind-f*ck is elementary, poorly written and, frankly, hidden by how well the actors perform.
The bottom line of this film is that the viewer is supposed to see Frances McDormand one way, Sam Rockwell in the opposite way. Then, when the spindle of the film, the centerpiece, Woody Harrellson, dies, situationally, things change to alter how the viewer sees Frances' character and how the viewer sees Sam's character. There are many plot points used to create the details around why we see these two characters the way we do that, in this climax of Woody's death, are abandoned as "irrelevant" when we are made to see them a different way. Without going into a lot of details, the plot devices used are offensive, racially charged, homophobic, just disgusting on every level, which are items we've come to anticipate in movies from people like Quentin Tarantino, but they always seem to be relevant in the character and/or the plot. Here they are incredibly insensitive items, but then discarded as pointless for the sacrificial sake of forcing the viewer to change their opinion of these two characters. In the meantime, those plot devices are left there and leave so many unanswered questions, that one can't help but blame horrific writing for such careless use and resolution of those plot devices. It's astoundingly poor writing.
In the end, while the film intentionally doesn't end it the way most people would expect (which I'm fine with), and forcibly makes you realize that this film is about the change in its characters rather than wrapping up a typical storybook end, the flaws radiate more than ever.
As a result, I don't recommend anyone pay money to see this film. I also hope the white-dominant Academy and Hollywood Foreign Press see this film for what it is and not focus so much on the spoon-fed redemption, then judge it accordingly.
The acting is above average and the main players especially have solid roles that they make the most of. Unfortunately,one of the main problems to me was the sheer loathsomeness of every character, McDormand's included. I'm all for dark comedies, gritty film making and art that explores the dark side of life, but the interactions that the characters have in this film are downright unpleasant. One scene after another. There is also a heavy racist undertone in the film, as well as stereotypes of southern life, crooked cops and racist hillbillies. The few black characters in the movie are portrayed as straight laced and well adjusted, at times saviors, while the crazy deranged white folks engage in all kinds of derelict behavior. 6/10
I just want to clarify before going any further that In Bruges, Martin McDonagh's directorial debut, is one of my absolute favorite films. One that navigates comedy and drama perfectly, brilliantly written and acted, I could go on for days on how perfect In Bruges is, in my humble opinion.
Sadly, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri fails miserably where In Bruges succeeded. It constantly tries to navigate the difficult line between dark comedy and drama, and mostly, it falls flat on its head.
The thematic thread may be to blame here. Without spoiling the plot, the setup is simple: Frances McDormand wants some form of justice for her daughter's brutal murder. She gets the local police department's attention by setting up three billboards complaining about their inability to solve the case. But her action only generates more conflict in town and while it does draw attention to her daughter's case, it leads to increasing tension between her and pretty much everyone else around her. Her anger literally begets more anger and, ultimately, solves nothing.
This is a surprisingly simple moralistic viewpoint coming from the man whose first film was so morally complex and ambiguous and it results in the creation of equally shallow characters and a plot that desperately tries to make sense of its many pointless turns.
To be fair, McDonagh attempts to humanize its more prominent characters: Mildred (McDormand), in spite of being a tough and wooden most of the time, shows deep vulnerability in an unfortunately insufferably cheesy monologue she gives to a deer. Meanwhile, Dixon (Sam Rockwell), the "black torturer," displays humanity later in the movie and tries really hard to find redemption when he is shown the way.
Unfortunately those attempts are so sudden and awkward or poorly executed that they lack believability and feel like they were artificially implemented to make these characters seem deeper than they really are.
Throughout the film, it feels like the filmmaker is more interested in hammering his simplistic viewpoint and using small town America as a perfect setting for it - even though it never feels like he has actually ever spent time there - than to craft a story with a coherent through line and inhabited by humane, relatable characters.
There was so much talent involved in the making of this film - and in spite of everything, Sam Rockwell delivers a stellar performance - that it is truly frustrating that the end result be so mediocre. Hopefully, McDonagh will course correct on his next film.
2. There is a sub-theme about race. Race is an important issue and deserves to be treated honestly, but in this movie, it felt like a side-road that led nowhere. (It actually feels like moral preening on the part of the scriptwriter. It didn't add much to the movie's meaning.
3. Wonderful performances by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell as a police chief and officer. Woody especially brought grace to a character who at first seemed unsympathetic. (BTW, McDormand's ex-husband has a young and beautiful girlfriend, and that relationship is treated as awkward and shameful. Harrelson's wife is young and beautiful, and that relationship is treated as idyllic.)
4. Police officers don't talk like that among themselves or to others.
5. I particularly didn't like the Chief's take on racist cops, saying essentially that all cops are racist. That may be accepted as dogma by some Hollywood screenwriters, but any chief who talks about his beloved employees--or cops in general--like that shouldn't be a cop. Coming from this character, the sentiment is cheap and clunky and inexplicable.
6. There are a couple of plot holes wide enough to drive a billboard through sideways. The most egregious (no spoiler here) is what happens (actually what should have happened but didn't) immediately following the window scene. (You'll know the scene when you see it.) The thing not happening was necessary keep the plot going. Everything that happened after that feels tainted as artificial and contrived. Likewise a later scene in a bar, involving a coincidence beyond coincidence.
7. It's impossible McDormand's character wouldn't have been arrested several times in the course of the movie, for several serious crimes. Once again, he plot depends on that not happening, and thus the plot again is contrived.
8. There's a letter delivered to Rockwell's character late in the movie which is full of Hallmark Card sentimental drivel. It can't be justified by either what we know of that character or what we know of the writer.
In a world (as the movie trailers used to say) where we are awash in numbskull comic book movies and incoherent special effects spectacles, it was a small miracle this film even came to my local cinema. Too bad I couldn't love it.
Writing and directing one's own movie has always been a dangerous undertaking with often fatal consequences, but one which can never work (I thought we'd learned this lesson) unless the auteur is brutally honest and objective about his vision, and takes her creative and professional ego out back and shoots it in the head. The undertaking has brought down even titans and more than a few teenie titans: Welles, Cimino and Kostner, to single out but a few who come speedily to mind. And not even those two wunderbrüder the Coens have the stones to go it alone. The writer/director of 3 Billboards takes his place among the former with this film.
I hate to be a buzz killer, but did you guys see the same movie I did? 3 Billboards should be requisite study in every legitimate and phony film school across America for its shameless, self-indulgent display of virtually every pitfall a writer/director can fall into and break his neck. This is the movie you end up with when a writer/director (W/D) falls in love with every word he scrawls and any masturbatory idea that occurs to him and his libidinous muse on the set. A confused, confusing and, at times, downright silly mishmash of tones: variously dramatic or melodramatic amid flights of low and high comic relief, with infuriating moments of satire and farce (throw enough darts, something'll stick), all the while daring our hearts to remain in a solid state after every full-term, pregnant pause. Maddeningly slow paced and often ah-c'mon-improbable, including its longed-for, but much-delayed "are-you-frikkin'-kiddin'-me" ending. A two-hour-plus flip of the bird in the face of the Unities, no sin in itself, to be sure, but before you break artistic rules, learn why they were made in the first place. As a result, this is a movie written and directed by one delusional person that looks like it had two directors, at least, and a committee of writers, each with a different take on, and a bunch of kool, unrelated cinematic ideas for, three related/unrelated stories. I'd love to know what the Coens think of this movie. Were they on the floor howling or on their knees begging him to let them re-cut the film?
And what really got me was that every few minutes there were scenes nearing perfection: the first 20 minutes; that riveting scene with Frances and Woody on the yard swing; Woody and his wife at the fateful paddock. (Hey, W/D, why's his wife foreign-born? What was that about? Another inspired distraction that amounts to zip? Oh...diversity...ah-huh...yes...lots of diversity in MO) He did let one moment slip by, though, when younger cop, with shotgun in hand and light bulbs of self-awareness and self-actualization going off all around him, takes leave of his repulsive sloth...sorry...dozing mother. I was praying for a predictable, albeit unedited, confession of guilt, replete with flashbacks and a dream ballet, followed by a graphic murder/suicide and a quick wrap-up. No such luck. W/D has a real thing for red herrings.
People spend a whole lot of time saying goodbye in this movie or staring blankly, but bravely, into a vague, unforeseeable future or backwards into murky pasts fraught with anger and regret. Sometime close to that illusive ending, I began to fear an intermission was looming and that two more hours of pickled herring were in store for me. My restless leg syndrome was kicking up, I had to piss and, although I don't smoke, I needed a cigarette bad. Frances was saying goodbye to the younger cop (I know, you all know that actor's name except me)....let's say the cop's name was Wilbur. The screenplay goes something like this...again and again and again...
Younger cop Wilbur heads for door. Frances, CU in profile, lest her face betray a widening crack in her grief-fueled temporary insanity, stops him with:
Wilbur halts at door. He turns. He is pulled into focus and Frances goes fuzzy. (I'm thinking,"I couldn't have see this movie already...") The emotional difficulty for both of them at this moment is palpable. A silence falls. ("...maybe I need to #2")
This is more difficult than she thought. She pauses to swallow her courage and gather her pride. (An eighteen-wheeler passes)
FRANCES (back in focus); a Chekhovian Pause (The Six-Oh-Eight thunders by), then: Thanks...
Wilbur stares at this remarkable, yet maddening, woman in silence for a while, (Just how much is a pack of Reds these days?) then slowly turns and exits. Slowly.
I wanted to scream out the lines! It takes one cotton-pickin' second to say WilburYeahThanks. Not fifteen. Unless you have an unnatural relationship with your own screenplay. Once upon a time, there was a director who used to say that pauses were expensive and had to be spent carefully. They don't accomplish what amateurs think they do. They ruin pace, insult the audience and are probably the tritest signal of cheap sentimentality.
Frances, thank you thank you for your clipped delivery of that ridiculous monologue about the Crips and the Bloods. And please say you refused to memorize it. I hope they put that extended-till-it-snapped metaphor on a Teleprompter for you.
Supporting roles: OK, I'm going to be nice and not mention any names which I won't remember anyway, because I bet a lot of inexperienced actors are thinking this was their big break, and, given our current atmosphere of Trump-era credulity, it just might be, but, like my old friend Harry Pebbel told me...oh, God...years and years ago, "For nothing, you get nothing." There are a dozen amateur performances in this movie reflecting a tight acting budget beyond its stars: raw, unrehearsed young actors and day players, struggling with stagy, didactic or overstated lines of bumpy dialogue and incongruous comedy.
But wait! Along comes another supporting player, the new Police Chief. A black man. Good choice. Nice touch of irony within the context of the film and maybe the kick in the ass this crashing bore needs. But then the guy opened his mouth...
Now, it is unquestionably possible for anyone with an ear to learn to speak Eastern Standard English. That's the dialect American stage actors are, or used to be, required to learn. I believe it only survives indigenously in an island of territory somewhere around the border of New York and Connecticut. I do not doubt that black Americans have grown up in that area and could have chosen to assimilate that style of speech. But. I'll bet the ranch that not one of them has ever aspired to the position of Chief of Police of a backwater Missouri burg. This was a directorial choice (it's not an acting one) that, though perhaps cheered by guilt-ridden Hollywood revisionists and other champions of Fake News (Fake News/Fake Messages: same difference), was utterly improbable and downright laughable. In fact, I did laugh. Sidney Poitier had or often used (dunno which) a very distinctive dialect more than 60 years ago. It was erudite, cultured and completely comprehensible (unlike many of the actors in this flick, especially Younger Cop). It was also unabashedly African-American. In In The Heat Of The Night, though he sounded like he could very well have been to college, he, most assuredly, did not sound like he went to Yale School of Drama, but abandoned the theater for a career in Public Safety.
The leads: I bet this looked like a great idea on paper, and presuming pitiless cuts, massive rewrites and objective editing, it's easy to see how Frances and Woody were attracted to the project early on. Woody looks and sounds great, a real imposing and contrasting presence in a movie brimming with homely people. Frances McDormand is a national treasure. She is never bad. A movie may be, but she cannot be, because of the roles she chooses and the richness of her characterizations. She is, and will remain forever, original, engaging and intriguing, like Geraldine Page, Judi Dench, Bette Davis and a few other fortunates whom the Hollywood Powers-That-Be never tried (or failed) to turn into glamor pusses. But an Oscar for this mess? No. Not even though I would have walked out after one hour of abuse, if I hadn't, as per usual, been mesmerized by the way this actor fleshes-out, internalizes, communicates and believes in her characters. No, not even though I'm still haunted by the chilling lack of conscience and humanity in her Undead eyes. Other more worthy and Oscar-worthy movies are, doubtless, in the cards for her. If she does win, I'll content myself with the idea that she won the sympathy vote for not walking out in mid-production, claiming health issues. Or maybe they had money in the thing. Whatever. Younger Cop? Sorry, I thought he really blew until the last half hour when his character grew a set and/or that other director, maybe, took over.
This movie tries to tell three little stories simultaneously (Yeah, yeah, I get it: three billboards, three stories), pretty much succeeds with one (I'll let you decide which) and conflates the other two to near absurdity.
But I thought the sound track was first rate.
The protagonist (who is played by Frances McDormand) is presented to us a likable person at first. But when she speaks to the police about her problems she seems quite nazi-esque. She wants to draw and test blood from every person who lives in her town to find a criminal. When the police chief informs her that such a thing is impossible because it would be a gross violation of people's civil rights, she doesn't care. He replies, "he could have been a man who was just passing through the state." "Then let's take blood from everyone in the country." Sure... She says it quite seriously. Repulsive.
Woody Harrelson provides good acting, but there are multiple scenes in the movie when he does voice-over for comic relief that are mildly amusing at first but feel stale and forced rather quickly. There were many times when I just wanted to shut it off-- when someone is stretching irreverence out to the point of being unrealistic and absurd it's just bad writing. It's also bad form to have so much voice-over in any movie.
In the early going, Sam Rockwell's cop character is the type of person who would strike me as reprehensible yet tolerable. When he pistol whips an innocent man and woman then beats the man to within an inch of his life he goes from tolerable to I-want-this-moron-to-die. As other people have noted, the police chief (who witnessed all of these things in person) wouldn't just fire such a person. He would be arrested and convicted for attempted murder. Instead, the chief fires him in an almost nonchalant manner.
There is also an additional embarrassingly stupid scene in which Rockwell's character thinks that he is overhearing a violent criminal brag to his friend about his crimes. When the criminal confronts him... he scratches his face... then stares at him. Again, the Rockwell character is borderline retarded, but even the dumbest among us have a survival instinct. When I saw this scene play out I thought that it was part of a strategy or plan-- the Rockwell character wanted to get the guys arrested for assault so he could make his case to the police chief. Nope. Just more idiocy.
It has a few solid comedic moments. But I would never watch this film again.
I hated this shockingly racist, illogical, trashy film! I am stunned that it is not being called out for the racism (hidden behind the mask of alleged liberal good-deed-doing) and violence that it condones! I have never seen a film make so many attempts at virtue signaling while at the same time exhibiting racism all over the place. Frances McDormand alleges about some torturing of "innocent black folks" and yet that storyline is never explored. Sam Rockwell (so awful in this I need to invent a new word to describe the failure) plays a racist cop but we never actually SEE any racism - there is only innuendo and excessive, unfunny use of the "n" word. Racism, if you're going to explore it intelligently with an audience, needs more than mean words and one scene where a "racist cop" get annoyed with and threatens to take in a young hipster black man for spitting in the cops direction. Sadly, that's the best example of something mildly racist actually happening in the film besides cheap talk - and it's WEAK - because frankly the cop, dumb as he is, actually has a point in that spitting towards a cop is an act of aggression - the cop didn't arrest him, he just reminded the young man that he's walking a fine line. Every black character (all in minor roles) portrayed seems to have stepped off the train from Williamsburg or Wicker Park. They are ALL hipster types with nothing of value to contribute besides cheap talk. The black people in this movie exist only to make the fake liberals look good for having "black friends" somewhere in the background. WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION - WHY is Frances McDormand the star of this film? Why not ANGELA BASSETT? Instead of casting a white actress why didn't the filmmakers decide to make this story about a Midwestern black woman who's daughter's rape and murder was ignored by the cops? That would at least be a more believable attempt to explore these themes - rather than FILTER THAT MESSAGE through a white woman. Hollywood is racist and they almost always think white liberals need to save black people. Is it about racism, or justice for the dead daughter? Neither, ultimately. As for her dead daughter, she's abandoned by the storytellers so...WHO CARES?
The violence is stupid and LOOKS FAKE! Example: that dumb kitchen scene with the boy and his dad and the knife! Embarrassingly executed - almost as embarrassing as that REALLY bad CGI DEER that is just a knockoff scene from a superior scene from THE QUEEN. ALSO --the message of anger begets anger, etc being explained to us directly from a character is cheap writing and disingenuous. There is no good message here. Also, why the making fun of the midget? Gee - that hasn't been done thousands of times! Stupid. Not funny and NOT edgy.
BASIC PLOT FAILS!
#1. They introduce a man who "MAY" be the killer Frances is kinda searching for (more time is spent kicking high school kids in the shin - by the way, why did those kids just STAND there and let her keep kicking them? Not a very realistic reaction. They would have RUN AWAY!) He MAY be the killer - and then we learn he definitely is not? And why give us this whole story about him being somewhere "SANDY" in the war? So he's a rapist soldier now instead? So WHY show him CONFESS to Frances earlier? STUPID!
#2. THE BILLBOARDS DON'T WORK! We see NO ONE drive past them EVER except for Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody. As for the news broadcast, that was again cheap writing. It doesn't show us how people react to anything related to the billboards. Woody's cancer is a cheap diversion from the fact that the billboards have no affect. By tying his cancer so directly to the plot with the billboard's "alleged fiasco" they deny the opportunity for the audience to see the townsfolk real reaction to the CONTENT of the billboards - and instead they react to Frances being mean to a dying man. This defeats the point of the billboards in terms of storytelling, so it's hard to see any real reason why or how these billboards EVER stir the pot, but the filmmakers pretend that magically they do!
# 3. When a hipster gets thrown out the window by Sam Rockwell - the new police chief sees this - and, uh, DOES NOT ARREST HIM! So, not only do the filmmakers know nothing about police, what is legal or illegal, but they have never watched a single episode of LAW AND ORDER or even JUDGE JUDY. Speaking of reactions - no one in this film has a realistic reaction to anything that happens ever. Sam Rockwell goes from nearly murdering someone, to acting goofy after getting fired, all in the same breath! It's stupid beyond belief. Then we're supposed to believe that during THE FIRE, just SECONDS AFTER reading Woody's moralistic letter (another cheap devise overused throughout), he has an instantaneous change of heart/moral epiphany and thinks immediately of saving the BURNING CASE FILE ON HIS DESK to help Frances McDormand? I could go on for hours about how awful every second of this film is...save yourselves the time. Watch "IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT" or "MISSISSIPPI BURNING".
This movie is so awful it does not even deserve to be criticized. The only reason I am is because it has gotten rave reviews from critics DESPERATELY searching for a zeitgeist film of the moment, but who haven't found a good one yet so they are propping this one up! WHY? Because it checks off all the correct virtue signaling requirements of the times. Critical thinking while viewing this film will reveal a false justification for violence, bigotry towards dwarfs and country people, and inherently racist storytelling.