‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ – written and directed by Martin McDonagh (‘In Bruges, ‘Seven Psychopaths’) is a darkly funny, albeit, serious look at the justice system and one woman’s fury against a case left unsolved. Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a woman who decides to rent the titular billboards with a message calling out chief of police Willoughby (Oscar-nominee Woody Harrelson) for not focusing more on her daughter’s unsolved murder. At first, these billboards attract the attention of officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell, in a role he might win the Supporting Actor Oscar for), but eventually, the town gets all wrapped up in the controversy surrounding Hayes’ decision.
Throughout awards season, ‘Three Billboards’ has been the subject of many an accolade win, leaving many to believe that it will nab the Best Picture Oscar over ‘Lady Bird’ and ‘Get Out’. Even if it does win, I cannot say that this is the best film of the year. For what it is, ‘Three Billboards’ is actually good; McDonagh directs the film with a sense of both inspiring humanity and graceful beauty; you see it in the cinematography and feel it in the performances. My only gripes with ‘Three Billboards’ are not just how abruptly it ends, but also how ridiculous its sense of humor can be at times.
As Hayes, McDormand commands the film with a sense of bitter despair, not just over a justice system too focused on “eating Krispy Kreme” and “torturing black folk”, but also the loss of a loved one; though she does not back down without a fight (or at least something to say). Her best moment is a scene where she confronts her priest (An uncredited Nick Searcy) over hypocrisy when she finds him in her home. On the other hand, Rockwell steals the show in every scene he is in; proving once again how great of an actor he can be. I loved his performance in ‘Seven Psychopaths’, though in ‘Three Billboards’, he tones it down; instead finding a balance between having an outrageous tough-guy persona when confronting people he does not like, and projecting his insercurity about still living with his mother (Sandy Martin). While Harrelson finds a balance between a funny on-screen persona – cussing and swearing around his family – and a man going through some personal troubles of his own.