This is one of those rare trailers where I’m going to be sad to never see it again. Yeah, no joke. In a way, it’s almost sad to see the movie actually come out because the trailer was so funny and enjoyable. Frances McDormand kicks a teenage boy in the balls and then kicks a teenage girl in the vagina right after! What’s not to enjoy?!
Anyway, the story looks like it’s about this older woman who is grieving the death of her teen daughter and the killer hasn’t been apprehended, blaming her town’s police chief, causing a particular ruckus when she puts up three billboards up that call him out by name for the lack of results. Boy… this doesn’t sound like a movie that’d be a comedy.
Anyway, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Frances McDormand (HAIL, CAESAR! , ÆON FLUX , FARGO , and RAISING ARIZONA ) and Woody Harrelson (THE GLASS CASTLE , NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN , TV show CHEERS [1985 – 1993], and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY ). In support, we have Sam Rockwell (POLTERGEIST , SNOW ANGELS , BASQUIAT , and the upcoming BACKSEAT ), Peter Dinklage (ANGRY BIRDS , ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT , DEATH AT A FUNERAL , and is rumored to be in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ), Abbie Cornish (GEOSTORM , SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS , ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE , and the upcoming TV show Tom Clancy’s JACK RYAN ), Lucas Hedges (LADY BIRD , MOONRISE KINGDOM , DAN IN REAL LIFE , and upcoming films BEN IS BACK  and BOY ERASED ), and John Hawkes (EVEREST , AMERICAN GANGSTER , STEEL , and the upcoming END OF SENTENCE ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Martin McDonagh, known for SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS and IN BRUGES (2008). Composing the score is Carter Burwell, known for WONDERSTRUCK (2017), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE JACKAL (1997), RAISING ARIZONA, and the upcoming BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, no release date announced. Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Davis, known for DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), WRATH OF THE TITANS (2012), STARDUST (2007), and the upcoming DUMBO (2019).
Overall, I think this is going to be great and I’m going to love it. That’s the hope, right?
This is my honest opinion of: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Mildred Haze (Frances McDormand) is an older woman, formerly a mother of two, now one after her teenager daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton), was raped and murdered several months ago. In an effort to refocus the police department, whom she believes is slacking in trying find her daughter’s murderer, she purchases the use of three billboards that call out police Chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) by name and how the town reacts to Mildred’s actions, some supportive, others against.
A quick story before I get into my review. So, I’ve been wanting to see this movie for some time. I was excited from the very first trailer, but I’ve been seeing other films with family and friends, which has kept me away. So yesterday, I decided to see the movie before my shift at work. I left at a reasonable time that could have been cutting it close, but guess what my stupid-ass did? I absent-mindedly didn’t get off the correct freeway exit. I missed my showtime. Fine, I looked up the showtime for anything that would come out after my shift, right? I get off at 9 PM, or around that time, and there’s a 10:45 showtime. Sweet, I’m good with that. Go home, get out of my work clothes, even be a weirdo and go in my pajamas so I wouldn’t have to change out of three sets of clothes in a day and go home and just flop on my bed. Sounded easy enough. Once again, I leave to go to the theater, but upon my arrival, guess what my seriously dumb-ass did? I left my phone at home. What does that matter? I have MoviePass (yes, it really works), and you NEED the app in order to see the movie without paying for it out of your own pocket. I never do that! I always leave home without my phone! Fucking Christ, I hate when life tells me “no” to seeing a movie. So seeing this the following morning feels a hell of a lot more victorious.
Anyway, on to the review.
While I’m still processing the film as a whole, I really like it.
What I definitely like and appreciate the most about this movie is that it starts off almost clearly defining who we root for and hate. Mildred is the frustrated grieving mother whose daughter was raped and murdered and the police are a bunch of apathetic racist assholes who don’t seem concerned with finding out who did it. In fact, it’s done so well that you’re 100 percent on board with who the good and bad guys are. But it doesn’t take long for the rug to be pulled up from under the audience and the lines are a little more blurred than originally thought. While the audience certainly understands why Mildred puts up the billboards, the movie doesn’t sugarcoat how it affects other people, both in support of and against her. Her son Robbie certainly has his feelings about it. Constantly looking up at the words, not enough knowing that she was raped, or murdered, but knowing that these were her final moments of life right there for him to know everyday, deepening his already deep depression.
Furthermore, we establish that Chief Willoughby is about the only decent cop among the bunch of badges who truly is sympathetic toward Mildred’s pain, and he’s got cancer. Something the entire town, including Mildred, knew. You can probably guess why much of the town would be in an uproar. The signs are in poor taste and not showing the same sympathy for Willoughby that he shows her. And she is wholly unapologetic for her actions. As a result, the movie by this point shows that there is no real good or bad guy (except maybe Dixon [Sam Rockwell]), it’s just people who have their own personal struggles and they’re dealing, or not dealing, with it in their own way. No one’s particularly right, no one’s particularly wrong – well, okay, plenty of wrong to go around, but you get a sense that this is just that kind of small town and its people are just that, people. It’s a complex community with complex people dealing with a complex situation.
I’m probably not painting a very comedic picture, as this movie is toted as a dark comedy. While the drama is certainly the centerfold, there is wickedly sinister comedy that I was rolling in the aisles for. So we know that Mildred was once married to a former cop and abusive drunken husband named Charlie (John Hawkes), who would eventually start dating a ditzy nineteen year old girl named Penelope (Samara Weaving). Soon after the billboards are put up, Charlie pays Mildred a visit with Robbie home and confronts her about it, resulting in things getting physical, Charlie holding Mildred by her throat against a wall. But then Robbie steps in and holds a knife to his own father’s throat, demanding that he let her go. Pretty intense, right? But then the intensity comes to a screeching halt when Penelope walks in and is all like, “Hi, is this a bad time? I really need to use the bathroom. I feel like I’m interrupting. You know what? I can hold it.” And then everyone’s all like, “Oh for God’s sake, just go!” “The bathroom is down the hall, to the left,” or whatever the line is. I swear my sides were splitting. I won’t give away every joke, but when the movie’s comedy needs to shine through, it shines through beautifully.
What I also really love as well is the ending. The final twenty or so minutes is perfectly tense and chock-full of nail-biting, and it’s not even an action movie. This asshole stranger, making both Mildred and Dixon that he’s the one who may have raped and killed Angela. So when Dixon is gathering evidence to try and prove that he’s the one who did it, we’re all eagerly hoping for a happy ending. But Willoughby said it best. Sometimes, these things happen and there is no resolution. There’s just not enough to go off of if there’s no lead to trace. The movie doesn’t wrap this story up in a pretty pink bow. No justice is given for Angela. But there’s still something hopeful about the ending when we see Mildred and Dixon riding off to Idaho with the notion of killing this man anyway, as Dixon does firmly believe that he’s a rapist, and they’re going off to play vigilante, but aren’t sure if they really want to carry through with it.
Of course, I also love how Mildred admits to setting the police station on fire, accidentally setting Dixon on fire in the process. But his only response is, “Well who the hell else would it be?” He barely gives a fuck and it’s quite funny. Though… how he never noticed that fire obviously burning behind him when it was happening is anybody’s guess.
The only problem I have with the movie is Dixon. I get what the writers were trying to do with him. Make him an incredibly unlikable character, downright built up to be the villain of the flick, but give him such an arch that by the end of the movie you see him in a different light. Maybe he’s not forgiven, but you don’t hate him anymore. And for all intents and purposes, it was successful, but there’s a bit of a… I don’t know what to call it, a “disjointedness” about how he got to that place.
Okay, Dixon is a despicable person. He’s got a rumored reputation of beating and torturing black people, but as there was no evidence to prove it, it’s just speculation. What isn’t speculation is that he’s a violent weasel of an asshole who is incredibly racist. This is laid out plain and bare. Here’s the thing, his arch is supposed to be when he reads the letter Bill leaves him, urging him to be calm and nice, just to try it out for a change. And because they were so close and Bill’s suicide affected Dixon so profoundly, he decides to do just that, leading him to apologize to Red Welby and to take the initiative to see if this stranger from town who described events that seemed awfully similar to Angela’s rape and death, and at around the same time of her rape and death, he puts himself in that position to seek the truth, even if it wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for.
Here’s the thing, as much as I liked this idea, and its execution isn’t the worst, it’s still not… a perfect execution. First off, you can already tell that he’s got some change in his character when Abercrombie fires him. I mean, okay, you can’t exactly predict that he’ll go in the direction that he ultimately goes in, but his personality does go through a change of some kind and there’s something about the way he’s shot, the way he’s acted, it’s obvious that the audience is supposed to have sympathy toward him. But literally one or scene scenes ago, he threw Red out of a window, causing property damage, and sending that poor kid to the hospital for something that he had absolutely nothing to do with. First of all, I know this is a small town and everything, the law can get away with a sadly large amount of shit, but aren’t there people that the average citizen can report heinous acts like these cops to? Everyone in law enforcement answers to someone right? But more focused on the story and Dixon, I don’t care about him getting fired, so I didn’t really care about him.
Also, I don’t think the relationship between Dixon and Bill was properly explored to warrant the emotional letter. We never really see the humanity in Dixon, so I never agreed with Bill when he wrote that he has great potential deep down. We never really see the two characters interact outside of a professional setting, so we never see the two really connect. Why does Bill see potential in this racist prick? The audience is never made privy to it, so why are we supposed to care?
Overall, I can’t say that I agree with the the mass ravings for the film, but I can honestly say that it is a pretty damn good movie and I do highly recommend it if you’re into dark comedies. The acting and direction is phenomenal. The writing is stupendous. The cinematography is outstanding. It’s a really good film that shouldn’t be missed. Three billboards aren’t enough to advertise just how good this really is.
My honest rating for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI: a strong 4/5