‘Three Billboards’ seen, 2 hours wasted
In nearly 25 years of writing this column I have never done a movie review. Until today. The reason is because I’m so annoyed over a movie I was excited to see and deeply disappointed in, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Now when I say I was disappointed I don’t mean I thought the movie would be great and it stunk. It didn’t stink; overall it was riveting. My issue came with the heavy handed messaging and dare I say antiChristian tilt that the writer/director felt the need to push.
Before I get into that let me say two things up front. First I’m going to give away major plot points so if you haven’t seen the film and plan to, stop reading. Second, I am not one who readily believes in conspiracy theories so when I hear people on Fox News talk about “liberal Hollywood” and their hidden agenda I generally roll my eyes. I think by and large Hollywood’s only agenda is to make money, lots of it. That’s why we get so many bad sequels. So understand it pains me to even go down this road at all.
I assumed I’d love the movie because it had three of my favorite actors, Woody Harrelson (Cheers, Hunger Games), Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, Matchstick Men) and Frances McDormand (Fargo, Almost Famous) and in fairness they were all brilliant. Rockwell I believe is one of the most underrated actors doing stage or film today. If he opened a play off-Broadway where all he did was read names from a phone book I’d pay to see it.
I went in knowing the basic plot which was a woman’s daughter is killed, she isn’t happy with the lack of action by the police, so she puts up three billboards hoping to embarrass the police chief into action. And that is exactly how it starts. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for the movie to start checking the usual boxes and taking predictable shots at people in positions of power and respect who are often targets for the left.
Example, Sam Rockwell’s character can’t just be a cop, he has to be a racist cop who’s drunk all the time and beats minorities and throws gay people out of windows; literally. Understanding that there are certainly some bad cops in the world I accepted the premise and moved on to the Woody Harrelson cop character hoping he’d be portrayed in a more favorable light. He’s a good cop but he’s dying of cancer. Rather than show compassion for him the Frances McDormand character doubles down in trying to humiliate pub- lically him in the town. Nice.
Harrelson’s character also takes a dark turn. Rather than bravely battle his disease Harrelson’s solution is to plan a perfect day with his wife and kids and then go to the barn and blow his brains out. Keep in mind he wasn’t in end stage cancer here, he acknowledged in his suicide note that he likely had many more days or weeks to enjoy his family but he thought the smart move was to end things early and spare them seeing him die slowly. As if finding his body in the barn wouldn’t earn his kids a few years of therapy.
The movie is void of any mention of faith, which is fine, not everybody believes in a higher power. So I was confused why the local priest, a seemingly kind gentleman, unexpectedly paid a visit to Francis McDormand’s home to talk to her about her anger and the three billboards that were making the sheriff’s final days even worse. Rather than tell him to mind his own business McDormand brings up the sex scandal of the Catholic Church and tells the priest he is just as guilty as any pedophile priest.
Along the way a dentist tries to use a drill on McDormand’s mouth (without the use of Novocain) because he’s upset about the billboards and she takes it from his hand and drills it through his finger; a gross scene I assure you. For some reason she’s not arrested for assault. Nor is she arrested when she burns down the entire police station. She also goes on a date with the nicest man in the movie (Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones) only to humiliate him as well.
As the movie moves toward the climax you hold out hope that McDormand or the cops will catch her daughter’s killer but they don’t. Instead she teams up with the racist cop and they decide to go kill a different man they suspect of a sex crime but have zero proof of. The end, roll the credits, that’s the movie.
So let’s recap. Racist copcheck. Priests are pedophilesyep. If you get sick take your own life- got it. Oh and if you can’t get justice for your daughter’s murder just go and kill someone else who may or may not be guilty; no need for a trial or evidence.
Three Billboards got a bunch of nominations and won some big awards. I’m not certain Hollywood is really pushing an agenda but this film certainly bashed all the usual suspects. If I took out a billboard it would contain one word, disappointing.
John Gray is a news anchor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Channel 10. His column is published every Wednesday. Email him at email@example.com.