Every year, the month of January not only bestows upon us mostly awful films studios have no confidence in, but also awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their releases after weeks of playing in limited theaters. Such an example of awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their release is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film has become a critical darling this awards season, having already won Golden Globes for “Best Motion Picture-Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama” and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including “Best Actress” and “Best Picture.” Considering the hype machine surrounding the film and it’s timely subject matter, the film should be one that not only stands-out as one of the best films of 2017, but one that will stand the tests of time, right?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sees Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) dismayed by the lack of resolution from the town of Ebbing, Missouri’s police department regarding the case of the murder and rape of her daughter. In order to get the police’s and the town’s attention, she rents out three billboards on a road nearby the town that read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”. Mildred then faces backlash from the town and its police department, particularly from alcoholic racist police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the pancreatic cancer stricken police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), all in the name of seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and death.
Much of the hype surrounding the film is due to Frances McDormand’s performance as a “Rosie the Riveter” dressed, older white woman not afraid to speak her mind. This of course also includes her cursing up a storm and being unapologetic for who she is and for what she is doing. McDormand has always been a terrific performer, but because she’s not a sex symbol in any way shape or from, she is somewhat forgotten in Hollywood circles. Her performance in Three Billboards serves as a reminder she’s still a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and is definitely worthy of the awards buzz she has received this awards season that she hasn’t received since winning the “Best Actress” Oscar for her role in Fargo.
The film also boasts strong supporting performances as well, most notably from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Harrelson has always been an underappreciated actor in Hollywood, having seamlessly transitioned from his T.V. stardom in Cheers to being a leading man and character actor. Harrelson is able to sink his teeth into his role as an under fire police chief suffering from his own health issues, and churns out a performance worthy of his Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Actor.” The man who steals the spotlight from him, however, is Sam Rockwell, another character actor who seems to have never gotten his due. His portrayal of a dim-witted, racist cop who eventually finds redemption is one of the best supporting character performances this year, and he is clearly the favorite to walk away with the Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor” come the night of March 4th.
Despite the tremendous performances from the main actors involved, it feels like there’s something missing from the film. The film feels like it is building towards sending a message throughout, but it ultimately leaves audiences hanging. This lack of pay-off is extremely disappointing, and the ending will leave one with a sour taste in their mouth. In the wake of the “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements currently taking the industry by storm, Three Billboards had the chance to make an impactful statement, but ultimately has nothing to say. Due to the lack of resolution, Three Billboards is easily the weakest film in the career of director Martin McDonagh, whose black comedies In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are much better watches than this “made for awards season” fluff.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri definitely has its strengths. It’s once again clear Martin McDonagh is an actor’s director, as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give very good and awards worthy performances. However, even with its timely subject matter in the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the film industry, the film ultimately doesn’t have a message to convey. Sure, it’s a showcase in acting, but Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri had a chance to be more, and ultimately settles for awards season pandering instead of making a statement.
Rating: 2 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Clarke Peters.