In his previous two films, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, acclaimed Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has shown a unique style and tone that blends gut-wrenching comedy with bleak, heavy drama. In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, he perfects this. From the excellent performances of an outstanding cast to an incredibly strong and thoughtful script, McDonaugh’s latest is one of the year’s finest and should be strongly considered come awards season.
The cast did a wonderful job, and there was not a single weak link among the ensemble. Frances McDormand is excellent as the unorthodox and strikingly dynamic protagonist, Mildred. She is strong and composed for most of the film, but she’s at her best when she delves into Mildred’s introspective thoughts that go into her deep grief and regret that comes with her daughter’s brutal murder which she constantly carries on her shoulders. There are plenty of short moments sprinkled throughout the film from both the past and present that aid the audience in understanding her character and what she is going through, such as an emotional moment when she begins to question whether she believes in reincarnation. Her fantastic performance absolutely deserves award recognition.
Sam Rockwell is also hilarious as the dim Officer Dixon. His comedic timing is superb, and he got the most laughs from the audience. The progression of his character arc is also a highlight. Dixon, initially a racist and narcissistic man redeems himself and becomes an empathetic figure that the audience can get behind. The rest of the cast give impressive supporting performances as well. Lucas Hedges is impressive, adding this to an ever-growing list of stellar performances. Woody Harrelson’s character arc is also funny, realistic, and sad, as he was one of the film’s most likable and tragic characters.
The characters were memorable thanks to McDonagh’s wonderful script. This film is funny, depressing, and inspiring. The comedy relies on extreme vulgarity, but it’s superbly hilarious and works to the movie’s advantage. The jokes weren’t overbearing; they are all consistently fresh and original. The dialogue feels natural, like we’re eavesdropping on actual conversations as opposed to them feeling overly artificial. The characters are incredibly likable, even when they act like awful people, since we are so empathetic towards them. The plot keeps the audience engaged as there isn’t a scene that drags. The third act was especially good, with one of the best ending scenes of the year.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a bleak, yet hilarious work of art that explores the effects of grief and regret in a way rarely seen. The characters are fun and memorable while also demonstrating how human they really are. This is one of the year’s best-written films and definitely one of the funniest, and will certainly be a major player come awards season.
(Featured Image: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Fox Searchlight Pictures)