Hol­ly­wood scan­dal could boost ‘Three Bill­boards’

Al­ready an Os­car con­tender, TIFF win­ner sees more buzz due to fo­cus on sex as­sault


It’s got a heck of a long ti­tle, but Three Bill­boards Out­side Eb­bing, Mis­souri just might be the movie of the mo­ment. The new film from Martin McDon­agh ( In Bruges), in the­atres on Dec. 1, roots it­self in the fury of a mother, Mil­dred Hayes (Frances McDor­mand), whose daugh­ter has been raped and killed and seem­ingly for­got­ten by la­conic lo­cal po­lice. Dis­sat­is­fied with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s go­ing nowhere, Mil­dred sends the au­thor­i­ties up in flames by rent­ing three bill­boards out­side her small town.

In block let­ters, the caus­tic mom takes on the po­lice chief (Woody Har­rel­son), de­mand­ing to know why more isn’t be­ing done.

Now, in­dus­try ob­servers are won­der­ing if in­creased top­i­cal­ity may send Three Bill­boards crest­ing a wave of in­dig­na­tion past best pic­ture favourites such as Se­cond World War tales Dunkirk and Dark­est Hour.

“This was go­ing to be a best-pic­ture con­tender any­way,” says Anne Thomp­son, edi­tor at large for film news site IndieWire. “This is just adding wind to the sails.”

After a strong de­but on the fall film fes­ti­val cir­cuit and a 97-per-cent fresh rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes, the film ar­rives in cin­e­mas as con­ver­sa­tions around sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault are hit­ting a na­tional high, with al­le­ga­tions in ev­ery sec­tor.

That’s not nec­es­sar­ily enough to push it to the top of the best-pic­ture race at the Os­cars, says Tom O’Neil, founder of awards prog­nos­ti­ca­tion site GoldDerby.com. “I don’t think it’s a re­al­is­tic ri­val to win at this point. But that can change,” he says.

What’s no­table this year, he says, is a best-pic­ture cat­e­gory that looks stacked with films about the fe­male ex­pe­ri­ence, from The Shape of Wa­ter and Three Bill­boards to I, Tonya and Lady Bird.

“It’s rare that films shot from a fe­male per­spec­tive are wel­comed to the Os­car race in the best pic­ture con­test,” he says.

So far, au­di­ence re­ac­tion has been telling. In Septem­ber, Three Bill­boards was a sur­prise win­ner of the au­di­ence award at Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. More re­cently, Fox Search­light moved the film from a com­edy con­tender to the more com­pet­i­tive best-drama cat­e­gory at the Golden Globes.

And his­tor­i­cally, vot­ers like to send a mes­sage on Os­car night, O’Neil says.

“Os­car vot­ers are not all the time vot­ing for the best movies, but the most im­por­tant ones,” he says. “Movies that make a state­ment.”


Frances McDor­mand stars in Three Bill­boards Out­side Eb­bing, Mis­souri.

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