Find us on facebook

Monday, March 5, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, raged America

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Kind of one of the biggest surprises of the year, receiving nominations and awards here and there to a striking amount (including two Oscars for the main actors), and with the best among the best, Frances McDormand, on it, 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri', was a must-watch for this humble blogger. And after seeing it, I have to say it is indeed pretty astonishing the film is getting so much praise. Because Martin McDonagh’s piece is risky, bold, sardonically funny yet scary at the same time, brilliantly acted as expected (and even beyond) and, although not as top-notch the universal reviews proclaim, mostly rewarding and thought-provoking.

There’s something in ‘Three Billboards...’ tone, atmosphere and scope that gathers Southern literature, The Coen brothers, the music of The Band and the current state of US affairs, with its shameful Trump administration (and their fellow supporters) on top of it. As a matter of fact, Flannery O’Connor’s essential ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ and the legendary ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ appear in the film, a couple of clues of what McDonagh is trying to address in his film: grief, rage, despair, violence… and beyond, way beyond (is it possible?) redemption. A movie that, during its first half, works almost flawlessly as an odd yet absorbing combination of tragedy, tension, vengeance, misanthropy, and a shockingly dark, brutal humor which is not afraid to settle over extremely sensitive issues, without 'resting its case' on easy answers.

That first half is firmly sustained by Frances McDormand, who adds another memorable performance to a gigantic career, in her incarnation of Mildred Hayes, a rough, relentless, obsessed mother seeking for justice (or is it just vengeance?), pushing the police of Ebbing not to desist in the investigation of the rape and murder of his daughter seven months ago, convinced she has to do whatever it takes (almost literally, to the point her actions can be questioned) in order to make them keep working in her case. McDonagh presses 'all buttons', harshness and savage comedy, while introducing all the elements of the plot: a small community that doesn’t want to be part of that confrontation between a grieving mother and their police force, as it is directed by a smart, noble man (chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson)… yet alongside him there’s Dixon, a blatantly racist, violent and profoundly stupid cop. A character that, initially, seems to be a secondary, pressing redneck walking cliché, but as the movie develops, turns out to be the other major force of the film, fuelled by the impressive performance of Sam Rockwell (another actor that now might find the recognizement he deserves).

But with Dixon shifting the focus of the film (or, at least, widening to him and Mildred’s actions), also comes the 'issues' with ‘Three Billboards…’ Because, unfortunately, there’s a noteworthy amount of underachievements, dubious scenes and characters, adding some sense of script going overboard or, in the contrary, being undercooked, harming considerably the movie as a result. Some might be consider minor, like the 'deer' scene, or the secondary characters of Mildred’s teenage son, her ex-husband and his teenage girlfriend, carelessly written, in plainly 'broad strokes' (and the 'domestic violence' scene is not funny at all, is gross, by the way). Same applies to Peter Dinklage’s lame role. But more important is the lack of development on why Dixon is always a second away to start kicking someone’s head for no reason (sexuality perhaps?), constantly raged. Why is he not in jail? How are we supposed to believe he can transform himself into that 'other Dixon' just because a letter (we all get the purifying meaning of the fire, by the way, but still)? And linked with Dixon’s 'new found' attitude, how are we supposed to jump on the bandwagon of the threat that, out of nowhere, completely implausible, appears in Mildred’s life and leads us into the film open conclusion? One not only has to concede quite a lot to go with the awkward development of the movie, but in several occasions has to do their bit to 'fill in the gaps'.

As McDonagh’s bet is brave and bold, one really wants to 'have a pass' in what regards to the movie problems and focus in its achievements. Like the aforementioned leading cast, the movie’s intensity, its rhythm and visual imagery (again, the fires). Or acknowledging the viewer should never root for anyone, as every leading character is (heavily) flawed, villains and heroines are not what they seem or, more precisely, the human beings in this film are, at the same time, one step closer to redemption and becoming a monster with their actions, making you stop to think after the initial, impulsive feeling. There's no black and white, no simple answer. True, it’s miles away from her masterful stories, but I have the feeling Flannery O’Connor would be proud of ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.

SCORE: 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment