July 21, 2024

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Geek Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Swing and a Diss: Mildred (Frances McDormand) and Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) discuss Mildred's Burma-Shave-inspired quest for justice in <em>Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri</em>

Frances McDormand wants answers that Woody Harrelson can't give in this dark comedy.

I’m off from work until 2018, so that means I have time to hit the local multiplex and see the awards bait for the next few days barring a couple days to visit family for Christmas.

With that in mind, here’s a review for a movie Watson already coveredThree Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

That title is way too long.  I’m not typing the whole thing again if I can help it.

Trailers for this one might be a bit misleading.  From them, we know one Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), angry that the local police in the title town never caught her daughter’s rapist/murderer, puts up some billboards demanding answers, particularly from the local police chief, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).  It looks a lot like it’s a “one righteous woman against the whole town” scenario, and that is somewhat correct, except Mildred does have some allies, and in a very nice twist, Willoughby isn’t a corrupt idiot.  He actually did everything he could and hit a dead end.  Nothing would please him more than to find the guilty party, but he has no clues to go through.  Plus, he’s dying of cancer, and in a town as small as Ebbing, everyone pretty much knows that.

As for Mildred, she’s so blinded by rage, grief, and guilt that she’s shut out anyone who might be of any help to her, to say nothing of disregarding the feelings of her teenage son Robbie (Lucas Hedges).  True, there is a particularly dumb and racist cop on the force named Dixon (Sam Rockwell), but some of Mildred’s negative feelings towards the police come in part to her own bad experiences with an ex-cop, ex-husband (John Hawkes), and it seems Mildred shut herself out emotionally from most everyone else in town already.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh has put together a fine film that humanizes many of its central characters, and the small town dynamics play a big part in that.  I’d give a special note to Harrelson, whose Willoughby may be the most well-rounded character in the movie, a small town police chief whose time on this Earth is limited and wants to spend what time he has left enjoying it and maybe doing right by others in the process.  He’s got a puckish sense of humor at times, and credit there goes to both Harrelson and McDonagh for not making him a Southern Cop stereotype.  What flaws to the film if there are any, is evident in McDonagh’s background as a playwright.  Some scenes and the general plot seems more theatrical than cinematic.  Let’s say nine out of ten defenstrations.