Film Review ~ Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell)

Will Gompetz wrote an enthusiastic review for the BBC (referenced below) saying that Frances McDormand (Mildred Hayes) was a certainty for an Oscar. He also described Three Billboards…. as a ‘black comedy’. The first is a decent prediction but ‘black comedy’ I don’t think so.

Anyone going to see Three Billboards… expecting a laugh is going to be disappointed. It’s bleak, unyielding with savage dialogue and ferociously violent action. Woody Harrelson, Chief (of police) Willoughby, looks for sympathy from Hayes as a partial explanation for his lack of success in finding the murderer of Hayes’s daughter. Her response is to say that as he’s dying he should get a move on before he actually does die. Hayes fire-bombs the police station and is unmoved when Dixon (Sam Rockwell) emerges on fire. As Gompertz puts it Hayes is, “numb on the outside and dead within.” Existential nihilism isn’t black comedy.

Dixon is Willoughby’s assistant. He’s a racist thug who tortures black men. Hayes taunts him because he lives at home with his mother who’s a controlling figure. He cuts the classic fascist figure. Personally insecure and only able to operate with explicit orders. When Willoughby dies Dixon is unleashed wreaking havoc on those he dislikes, which definitely includes Hayes. Up to this point Three Billboards… is unrelentingly unpleasant with no character capturing any empathy from the audience. Dixon’s nicer side seems to come after a scene when his mother appears to die though that is only hinted at.

Presumably a focus group pointed out the lack of a positive end: the film they, seem to say, needs an uplifting end. The redemptive moment is weakly done. The director’s heart obviously wasn’t up for it. He creates a scene with (Hayes/Dixon) deciding not to kill a rapist. A very rare empathetic moment gratingly tacked onto the end.

Why you should watch this film: It’s a probable Oscar winner in at least one category

Why you shouldn’t watch this film: It’s unrelentingly bleak and exceptionally sweary.

For an alternative review:


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