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Cinema Cindy: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

on January 8, 2018 - 10:17am
Los Alamos
“Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri” is a movie about a billboard rental by a woman whose daughter was murdered seven months earlier. The three billboards stand within sight of each other, making for the perfect “Burma Shave”-style staggered message. The message the woman posts asks why the Ebbing police chief has not made any arrests in the horrific rape and murder of her daughter.
Frances McDormand (Fargo) plays the rage-filled mother, Mildred Hayes, a character you aren’t soon to forget. McDormand has just won the Golden Globe for Best Film Actress for this role. She may be your reason to see the film. Or it may be that you enjoy movies that make dark comedy shine through unbearably tragic circumstances. Warning: if you are not ready to hear every possible conjugation of “the F-word” in nearly every sentence, you should probably pass on seeing this film.
Also winning a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a police officer, rather deficient in intellect, is Sam Rockwell. His character, Officer Dixon, begins the film as the least-bright bulb in the pack. He lives with his mother, his emotions are uncontrolled, he drinks too much, gets canned, gets burned, and ends up somewhat heroic in the dénouement. His boss, Police Chief Willoughby, is played with notable pathos by Woody Harrelson; he’s a man about to die from cancer, being harassed by Mildred’s three billboards. In fact, Mildred’s rental of the billboards sets off a string of violent events in the small town, allowing communal anger to spiral out of control.
Martin McDonaugh wrote and directed this offbeat film, winning the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. He is best known as an Oscar nominee for directing the 2008 film “In Bruges”. His harsh and offensive language throughout this script seems excessive to this reviewer. But his sublime evolution of these characters and how he depicts one woman’s crusade impacting her town, all unfolds expertly. His film is, however, “Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.”
Mildred sees her crusade spark all kinds of unintended consequences. But through it all, she learns who her true friends are. The interactions among these small town residents would never happen in a big city, and for being witness to that we are grateful. Everyone knows everyone else’s foibles, yet they still have an established equilibrium living together in their community. Mildred is blamed and threatened for daring to challenge the much-beloved chief of police. But she also wins the hearts of those willing to challenge the accepted norms of the town.
At the same time, we come to know Mildred’s very human imperfections quickly. Not just her language and disrespect, but her deep brokenness: the dysfunction of her family life; the abusive marriage from which she and her son have escaped; how one copes when forced to live without hope of justice. All of it paints the evocative image of a complex and grieving human being. Understandably, Three Billboards has won critical acclaim as one of the best films of 2017.