Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Cert: 15A; Now showing
It just swept the Golden Globes, taking home Best picture (drama), screenplay, actress (drama) for Frances Mcdormand and supporting actor for Sam Rockwell.
Now we wait to see if Martin Mcdonagh’s latest carries any kind of momentum into the rest of awards season.
While the London-irish filmmaker’s best work of late (after the frankly overrated In Bruges and the fun but untidy Seven Psychopaths), Three Billboards... doesn’t have “Oscars glory” written all over it. While punchy and full of giddy flourishes of dialogue, as ever with Mcdonagh it paints itself into a corner in the closing scenes where a convenient entrance stage-right in the second act is exploited. Nobody reacts in a normal manner to anything.
Luckily, the core trio in the cast are a muscular thing to behold. Mcdormand is tough as old boot leather as Mildred, a local woman seething in the aftermath of her teenage daughter’s murder.
Looking to shake up the useless Ebbing police force that failed to find the killer, she rents out three billboards on the approach to town and has a provocative message pasted across them. Her target is Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) but her actions draw in the wrath of thuggish, white-trash local officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell).
A swirl of side characters animates the nearly two hours of blackly comic, neo-western drama — Caleb Landry Jones as the wimpy ad agent, John Hawkes’s nasty ex-husband, a police superior played by The Wire’s Clarke Peter.
A superb cast, then, and for the most part Mcdonagh keeps them moving in interesting patterns. If he tightened up his endings a bit, he’d be unstoppable.