Friday, June 1, 2018

Movie Review: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) written and directed by Martin McDonagh

Mildred (Frances McDormand) is an angry and frustrated mother. Her daughter was raped and killed; the local police have made no progress on the case. In fact, they seem to have dropped the case. So she rents three billboards just outside of town that question why there's been no arrests, personally asking Chief of Police William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) why nothing has happened. The police in Ebbing have a reputation as Southern good ol' boys. Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a racist and a bit of an idiot. Willoughby himself initially strikes the viewer as a guy trying to smooth things over all the time, making things less rocky for himself, his department, and the people of Ebbing (maybe in that order, too). Initially the local minorities rally around Mildred and the rest of the town around Willoughby. The situation rapidly becomes more complicated and more escalated, thanks in part to bad behavior from Mildred and Dixon. Mostly the problems arise from the details that come out in Mildred's personal life and in the investigation. Viewers' sympathy is swift to switch as the story goes on. No one in the story is particularly saintly and often they are unlikeable.

Usually unlikeable people treating each other badly is a huge turn-off for me. This movie was a different experience. The movie has a lot of genuine surprises and twists that make it intriguing. The path of the story is hardly predictable. Even so, it was honest and made sense. The characters do interesting things--even if they don't think about it, I enjoyed mulling over their decisions and the outcome for days afterward. The characters struggle for some satisfactory ending to their situations. It is not a stretch to say they want redemption even if they don't know how to look for it. The movie doesn't end with everything tied in a neat bow, not because they want to make a sequel but because it is a long and hard road to find healing. The struggle for redemption is something I like quite a lot, which is why I enjoyed this movie.


Parental warning: The movie contains a lot of bad language and violence on screen. The rape and death is not depicted but there is plenty of other bad behavior. This is a hard-R and an "adults only" type of movie.

It's also the subject of A Good Story Is Hard to Find Podcast #183, where they discuss the film in much more depth than I have.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this sort of movie is usually one I avoid like the plague ... and this was was very different in so many ways from that "usual sort of movie." Glad you found it thought provoking! :-)