Plot: Mildred (Frances McDormand) has hit a wall, as she has endured seven months since her daughter was raped and killed, while police have come up with no leads, let alone arrests. She is convinced that a wake up call is in order, so she rents three small billboards on a barely used road near her house, to ask the local police chief why no progress has been made. The billboards cause an immediate firestorm, as they make the news, stir up locals, and of course, get the attention of the local police. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) visits Mildred to express his concern and explain his side of the case’s lack of progress, but she refuses to take down the billboards. This opens a wave of issues for her, as most of the town is against the billboards, especially since Willoughby has terminal cancer and little time left. One of the local officers, Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is determined to do whatever it takes to get the billboards taken down, no matter who pays the price for his actions. As tensions rise and things begin to escalate, what will become of Mildred and her three billboards?
Entertainment Value: I loved Three Billboards, as it boasts a stellar cast and the kind of messy, complicated characters that movies rarely explore. I know that some didn’t like the messy, unclear nature of these characters, but to me, it is what helps make this movie so remarkable. These are grounded, flawed, inconsistent people driven to extremes and acting out of hate and impulse. And given that the cycles of hate and violence are a central theme here, that approach makes perfect sense. A bad person can do good things and vice versa, so exploring multi-dimensional characters should be more common, not shot down because it makes a tough watch. The cast brings these characters to life in excellent fashion as well, including Frances McDormand in one of her best roles, which is saying a lot about her work here. She embodies Mildred in total, a tough, driven, but vulnerable woman who struggles with her past and being able to forgive herself, just a remarkable performance. This movie also has one of Sam Rockwell’s finest efforts, while Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, and Lucas Hedges are highlights of an impressive supporting roster. This is a dark film, with bursts of violent, hatred, and immense dread, but it is also hilarious at times. The humor is often just as dark as the dramatic elements, but feels organic and comes from the characters, so it isn’t just random comic relief. I do think a couple scenes go on a little long or ramble a little, but overall, the writing here is excellent. I think Three Billboards is a masterwork of character driven cinema, so I would highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates dark, character based movies.
No nakedness. This movie is driven by hate more than love, so not much time to diddle with this lot. A good amount of violence is uncorked, but most of it is non graphic beyond a realistic level of aftermath. So people get beat up, thrown out of a window, kicked in the crotch, and other such abuse, but not much bloodshed results. A little blood crops up in a dental exam gone wrong and a self inflicted gun wound, but again, nothing overly graphic happens. I did appreciate the great looking full body burn that occurs, as well as the burn makeup that results. I loved the dialogue here, as it is bursting with hatred, dysfunction, and confrontation, just the kind of content I adore. McDormand has a wealth of dark, but hilarious lines as she pisses off just about everyone town, but most of the prominent characters are given some terrific lines. Not all humorous mind you, but still memorable lines. The interactions are so much fun to watch, especially since these folks have minimal impulse control and are likely to say or do whatever the mood leads them to. That sense of anything can happen leads to great tension and mood, excellent writing here. In terms of craziness, this one is loaded with dysfunction and drama, as well as that unpredictable atmosphere I mentioned, which lead to a host of awkward, violent, and tense moments. The movie does feel like the wild west at times, but it is also a grounded kind of madness, so it never feels like it is off the rails, just in a realistic, but highly charged, unpredictable atmosphere.
Overall Insanity: 6/10