Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
With the multiplex given over almost entirely to comic book super heroes, sequels, and animated films for the kindergarten set, it’s hard sometimes to find a movie for grown-ups. Such a movie is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s a wry look at the after-effects of a murder in a small town.
Middle-aged mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) will do almost anything to find the person who murdered her daughter, Angela, seven months ago. Mildred is tough and fearless; if you have a confrontation with her, she might hit you in the stomach and humiliate you in front of your friends. When the local police in all that time don’t have a suspect, Mildred decides to take some drastic action. For $5,000 a month she rents three unused billboards on the old highway that hardly anybody uses anymore to advertise her message: “My daughter died while being raped. Why no suspects?”
People sympathize with Mildred over the loss of her daughter, but most believe the billboards are a bad idea. Mildred’s belief is that the police will work harder to find the murderer if their laxity is made public via billboard advertising. The foul-mouthed police chief of the town, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), has plenty of problems of his own. He’s dying of cancer and doesn’t have long to live. A glimpse inside the police station shows us that this police force is anything but efficient. Maybe it is time for somebody to hold them accountable for something. Their bumbling is personified by dim-witted officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who lives with his strange mother and makes Barney Fife look like a genius.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was written and directed by Martin McDonagh who, despite being English, seems to have a feel for small-town Americana and the American way of speaking. Despite the movie’s somber theme (trying to find a murderer), there’s lots of clever dialogue and some funny lines. Some of the plot twists are implausible, such as the no-consequences torching of the police station, but the whole thing is so unexpected and original that we don’t care. Originality is a rare quality these days in American movies. There’s even a town midget and a middle-aged divorced father with a ditzy nineteen-year-old girlfriend who turns every statement she says into a question. What more could you want from a movie?
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp