Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Movie Review
Sometimes you need a movie to just say fuck it and smack you in the face. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, the dark, depressing and funny drama-comedy from Martin McDonagh, does that job and the payoff is one of the best movies of 2017.
Frances McDormand delivers a fierce yet vulnerable performance as Mildred, an emotionally devastated woman who, seven months after the rape and murder of her daughter, pays for three billboards to accuse the local police of inaction and draw attention to the stalled case. Her billboards sets into motion a series of escalating incidents and bizarre character arcs.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri plays like a slightly less odd version of a Coen brothers movie, with colorful and sometimes idiotic characters, strange and unpredictable plot developments, and a healthy dose of dark humor underlying the utterly depressing story at hand.
If anyone without the last name Coen was to pull off a movie like this, it’d be McDonagh, whose previous works include the darkly funny In Bruges and the twisted Seven Psychopaths. Three Billboards is more accessible than either of those films, a mainstream player that somehow finds that perfect blend of emotional, tragic drama and absurd, foul-mouthed comedy. The movie swings effortlessly back and forth, offering up scenes that find humor in the most depressing moments (in one scene, McDonagh writes several minutes of playful banter between two characters, only to end it with one coughing up blood on the other).
McDormand is at the top of her game. She’s foul-mouthed, hard as nails and literally willing to do anything to get her way—but that’s only because she’s so dead inside she doesn’t give a shit about life anymore. The character, as well defined and developed as any you’ll see all year, is perfect—she is simultaneously hilarious and devastating.
Woody Harrelson is great in a supporting role, but so is Sam Rockwell, who is easily handed one of the most interesting and curviest character arcs in recent memory. Rockwell plays his role—the most Coen-esque of the movie—with gusto and deserves every plaudit thrown his way.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is a fantastically written and acted movie. Depressing yet funny, off kilter yet grounded, the movie is easily one of the best movies of the year, if not the best movie of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.