Four stars for ‘ Three Billboards’
It’s a beautifully brutal movie. Review,
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but Mildred Hayes would put the fear of God in the devil himself.
Wielding righteous anger, fiery emotion, biting humor and an ornery manner right out of a Clint Eastwood Western, Frances McDormand unleashes 2017’s most indelible movie mom in the darkly comic crime drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Mis
souri eeee out of four; rated R; in theaters Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expands to additional cities throughout November, goes nationwide Dec. 1). Writer/director Martin McDonagh ( In Bruges) crafts an expertly structured, brutal, yet surprisingly rousing narrative around a woman who’s ready to torch her entire life if it means catching a killer.
Several months after her teenage daughter is raped and burned to death by an unknown assailant, Mildred has had it with the small-town cops bungling the case and rents space on three rickety billboards at the murder site that haven’t been used in years. In black letters with a red background and no subtlety whatsoever, the grieving mother calls out the chief of police, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), for his officers’ haplessness.
The thing is, most of Ebbing isn’t on Mildred’s side, even knowing her loss, because she’s not exactly what you’d call a “people person.” Willoughby’s heart is in the right place and he’s a popular guy, plus he’s got cancer: Their relationship, though frayed, is one of the film’s most intriguing on an emotional level. More confrontational is Mildred’s dynamic with Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a mama’s boy with a screw loose who’s best known for torturing black prisoners, and her volatile ex-husband (John Hawkes). There are even complicated feelings between Mildred and those closest to her, including her son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) and loyal pal James (Peter Dinklage).
Mildred’s madder than hell and she’s not taking it anymore, and McDormand infuses her with such pain and presence that, even though she’s not that likable, her wounded mother is a wonderfully primal sight to behold. Everyone from her dentist to the reporters who cover the over-the-top billboards incurs her wrath, and when a priest shows up at her house to urge her to turn the other cheek, Mildred launches a nuclear rebuke comparing the church to the Crips and Bloods.
Among a standout cast across the board, McDormand’s and Rockwell’s performances give Three Billboards most of its emotional weight — and two instant Oscar contenders, especially McDormand, who should follow up her
Fargo win two decades later with this showpiece.
McDonagh has created a powder keg of a town whose biggest problems are rooted in the issues of our times, including racism, gender politics, sexual assault, police violence and simply loving thy neighbor. But it remains a satisfying narrative throughout, blending black humor and menace, and fostering a pervading sense of hope amid a relentless story of revenge.
Dixon (Sam Rockwell) and Mildred (Frances McDormand) go head to head in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” after Mildred’s daughter is raped and killed and she holds the small-town police accountable. MERRICK MORTON
Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) tries to talk sense into an enraged Mildred (McDormand). FOX SEARCHLIGHT