Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
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Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Francis McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage
The theme of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is “Anger” and what it does to the person and to the people who are exposed to it. It is the basis of the entire movie- how different people who are broken and consumed by anger shape their surroundings.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but what about a mother in spitting rage in search of justice for the rape and murder of her teen daughter Angela. Its one woman v/s the entire town of Ebbing; against the police department who she believes is not doing anything to solve the case. Mildred Hayes (Francis McDormand) is a divorced mother of two who is taking on the police department and the anger is spewed towards the town Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) as according to her the buck stops there. She rents three billboards just outside the town asking questions to the Chief so that people don’t forget and build up pressure on the police department. We can see the rage and frustration which drove her to put up those billboards. Mildred’s battle is as much with the police as with herself- justice to her daughter might be her only chance of forgiving herself.. And in her anger she destroys everyone in her way to justice be it a benign, well meaning police chief or a self righteous dentist. Yes she has a softer side but that has been long lost to her rage. Francis McDormand is one of the best actors in Hollywood and this is her best performance, at par with Fargo. Look out for her expressions and the demeanor when she is talking to Willoughby or the priest who comes to visit her.
Some people were sympathetic to her plight and some like Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) take an exception. Jason is a police officer who is an alcoholic mama’s boy and always feels the need to show his masculinity. He beats up people unnecessarily, is a racist, he is also accused of Black torture and is also a power abuser.Initially you tend to believe that the assaults are racially motivated but as the movie grows you feel that it is an anger issue stemming from the fact that nobody takes him seriously- probably he misses a father-figure bestowing some clear worded, non-judgemental wisdom- willoughby’s letter brings a transformation in him. In all the avatars Sam Rockwell is mesmerizing, there is a certain recklessness throughout the performance and it is brilliant- you despise him and pity him and in the end feel for him. The before transformation performance reminded me of Cassey affleck’s performance in “The Killer inside me”, Sam Rockwell has given the performance of his career, if this doesn’t get him an Oscar nothing will.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not a whodunit mystery crime thriller, it is not about finding Angela’s murderer but it’s much more than that. It’s about the things we do and the effect it has on us and the people we touch. McDonagh is a master storyteller and in this movie he has all the characters broken in their own way and trying to come to terms with it. Life screws everyone in one way or the other and nobody is happy and so we lash out at other people. The movie shows us to move beyond that and to try to find some quiet and some redemption. To find love in so much hatred. There are also small scenes which buildup the mood like the one where Mildred sets the struggling bug upright before paying of the advertising money symbolizing what is about to happen.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri pits two strong-headed angry-with-the-world characters against another and it is ironical that both have to work together to move forward.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the “movie of the year” simply for the performances of the cast. You’ll never find a more bitchy character than Mildred Hayes and more spiteful one than Jason. And yet you will come out pitying both of them.