Posted by: greercn | January 25, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Swearing and violence run through this movie. If you can’t handle unrelenting amounts of both, stay away.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (“3B”) needs to be abbreviated as I am tired of typing movie titles with colons and commas in them.

“3B” features extraordinary performances from Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, but there is much to disturb the viewer, during the film and after the credits roll.

“Get Out” is a superior film about racism in America. “Ebbing, Missouri” does not exist and Sylva, North Carolina (filming location) looks nothing like anywhere in Missouri.

So much casual racism, violence, misogyny and anger are slammed out, frame by frame. There are lots of lines to laugh at, but these are not belly laughs or guffaws.

It starts well. Mildred Hayes (McDormand) is a grieving mother. Her daughter was raped and murdered, seven months earlier. Believing the police have given up, she buys three vacant billboards so as to provoke the police into investigating further.

Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is dying. Harrelson is superb. His wife, Anne (Abbie Cornish) is at least 20 years younger than him. So far, so Woody Allen. But Cornish’s accent ranges across England from Surbiton to South London, with an occasional voice borrowed from “Gone With The Wind”. She jars and overacts terribly, within a brilliant and talented ensemble.

Dixon (Rockwell) is a racist who lives with his monstrous mother, Momma Dixon. Sandy Martin does what she can with her truly dreadful lines. I suppose these are meant to explain where Dixon’s attitudes come from.

As Dixon, Rockwell does the excellent job that he has done in so many roles, without the acclaim he is currently receiving. I wish I didn’t feel that conservative Americans are loving this movie for all the wrong reasons.

Martin McDonagh is a director and writer I adore and I have followed his work through theatre and film credits. My theory is that, given his Irish and English heritage, many of the attitudes on show in “3B” are exaggerated forms of those visible in Irish small town life.

These are not so loud or violent, in Ireland. But lots felt familiar to me, from spending time in Ireland.

Even the interfering priest in “3B” feels like he belongs in another and more Irish film. Nick Searcy is convincing.

It’s off that so many of the attitudes on show here just don’t fit well into Missouri or North Carolina or into small town life in the USA. I guess critics and Academy members live in New York and Los Angeles and really don’t care about this.

Caleb Landry Jones is great. Peter Dinklage, Amanda Warren and Lucas Hedges have superb moments.

All the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse loved it, except for me.

You’d best see it as it will win every award possible at the Oscars. Hopefully, it’s not just me having my doubts about whether “3B” is as great as so many believe it is. I shall go forth and Google and see if anyone else agrees with me.

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Responses

  1. I considered seeing it because of all the buzz but reconsidered as I had an instinct that with my personality, this kind of film would not quite appeal to me. It would be an event, just not an enjoyable event. Your review encourages me not to beat myself up for passing on it.

    • It’s a clever script. There is lots here that’s good. But I think you made the right decision.

  2. Great acting across the board. Nice review.

    • Thank you, Dan.

  3. Saw it today (just two of us in a big cinema in the early afternoon.
    I found it powerful, though, as Greer said, not all the parts fit, plot-wise or character-wise. (The police chief comes out like a surprisingly principled man, even though his runs an operation full of bigots). And one of the bigots turns Prince Charming-ish before the final curtain.
    That said, there is solid politics, solid humanity, solid frustration with the hypocrisy of small town society and the feelings of entitlement of the powerful. Much of the acting is really good. I’m glad i saw it.

    • Thank you, Sam for such an intelligent and thoughtful comment. You’re right to pick up on what I didn’t emphasise enough – solid politics and humanity and hypocrisy – although I still feel that many of the ideas are more true of small town Ireland than they are true of small town America. And Abbie Cornish is utterly miscast as the police chief’s wife. But there is great acting and many concepts worth exploring here. And I will still go see all the McDonagh family movies.

    • And my typo made you not “right” but “tight”. Whoops and sorry. I’ve corrected it, now.

  4. And then there’s this:
    https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/17-more-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri

  5. Thanks, Sam. I agree with most of that and it all made me smile.


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