Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:39 am

I remember a lot of British dramas where the Vicar comes forth to act as a spokesman for the town. And, honestly, that felt like a very authentic thing to me. I'm from the Midwest and when a pastor is concerned with one of their flock, at least they used to do this, they would go out of their way to reach out to them. It's definitely something an incredibly a preacher in an incredibly small town would do.
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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby dws1982 » Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:57 pm

My take is pretty similar to yours, Precious, although I was expecting to like it after being a big fan of In Bruges. I felt like it was well-directed (I think McDonagh has a much stronger knack for filmmaking than a lot of playwrights-turned-filmmakers), but I think the script really let it down. I didn't remotely buy anything to do with Sam Rockwell's character, didn't buy how Frances McDormand's character could firebomb the police station and no one would care, despite it being obvious who did it. Also thought it was ridiculous that a Catholic priest would come to McDormand's house presuming to "speak for the town" in a very small, very rural Missouri town--I think it was just so McDonagh could include that out-of-nowhere anti-Catholic monologue from McDormand's character. Kind of interested in seeing it again, because while I was watching it I mostly enjoyed myself. But it really just fell apart on reflection.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:10 am

I'll be the party-pooper here. I didn't much care for Three Billboards but can't say I was surprised by my response to it as I don't like Martin McDonagh's previous two films or his brothers work with the exception of War on Everyone.

The humour is so obvious, punchlines through in to put the audience ease, clucky plotting and largely one-note performances. I thought it started out well enough but once SPOILER ALERT Frances McDormand starts fire bombing the police station it completely lost me. The redemption of Sam Rockwell by then going to work with Francis McDormand just seemed unbelievable and it's open morally dubious ending left me most unsatisfied.

McDormand has given similar performances before and I never felt I got a lock on her. Sam Rockwell fares better but I found his change of heart a little too much to take. As a pilot to an ongoing TV series this may work but as a two hour motion picture it feels like a lot has been left aside in favour of some lame jokes, sometimes at the most inappropriate times.
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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby nightwingnova » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:15 pm

I have to respectfully disagree with the assertion that Mildred (McDormand)’s role is that of steadfast fury battling against systemic and cultural impediments to justice.

It has been argued that one of those intentional roadblocks is the “patronizing” attitude of fellow town folk, who while expressing sympathy about Mildred’s tragedy, refuse to help or support her outre strategies to spur additional action. As has been noted, there are no concrete restraints to tracking down and punishing the perpetrator of her daughter’s murder. There is no further evidence to follow (unless one wants to indulge in outrageous and unconstitutional activity such as retrieving a DNA sample from every male within the region). To compare the town folk’s attitudes to society’s cultural non-urgency or disbelief of sexual harassment charges is ridiculous.

As such, it is ludicrous to paint Mildred’s mistargeted and misfired attempts (billboards, police station arson, etc.) as being impeded. Her actions have no reasonable chance of advancing the investigation. They are the acts of a woman crazed with grief striking at everything around her. Classic filmmaking would have turned the situation into art: beautified unending pain and anguish.

In this movie, it is simply a crazy woman striking at the empty air. She does not exist as the moral core in raising issues or establishing points. There is not a moral core that works, and with that, the film fails.

The rest of the film is, as said, full of wonderful character and plot developments – though, even here, ridiculous plot occurs that weaken the story and message. For example, Mildred is not arrested for assaulting her dentist with a dental drill. Why? That was quite a wound for which not to file charges. It was a clear sign that she is a danger to others. So what is the issue being raised or commented on here? Being crazy with grief justifies attacking someone who offends you?

And finally there is the acting: the remarkable though minor work of Woody Harrelson, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, and Peter Dinklage. The rich work of Frances McDormand – though I sometimes found her strained to make this character make sense in the context of the imperfect movie plot. And there is the gem of Sam Rockwell, who seamlessly, seemingly effortlessly blends the complex character of dull, browbeaten, immature yet with a nugget of decency into smooth humanity.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:32 pm

I really liked it but not as strongly as everyone seems to here. Strong performances across the board and McDonaugh's usual facility with plotting and dialogue are fully on display so it'll likely end as one of the year's best regardless.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Reza » Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:59 am

Sabin wrote:Ditto. BJ and Tee, this thread is an excellent resource post-viewing.

At this point, we should just retitle this thread THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI -- SPOILERS! right?

flipp525 wrote
I think this and Get Out are perhaps the two most relevant and timely films of the year (and you just know The Post would love to take that title) in different, yet equally compelling ways. And that's why I think they'll be on their own at the top, vying for Best Picture against more traditional Oscar fare this year.

I agree. Watching Three Billboards..., I felt keyed up. It tackles themes of systemic racism, police brutality, rape and murder, and sickness within Trump's America, featuring a proud old cunt taking a stand against injustice. I don't know if Martin McDonagh wrote this with the ghosts of Treyvon Martin and Michael Brown in mind, but it was a cathartic viewing experience.

But the film excels to me as a piece of dramatic writing, not necessarily as a statement. It succeeds on character exploration and genius scene-work. A friend of mine asked "What is this film about?" and I said "It's about what two people do with their anger." Mildred Hayes is a resolve character, and her act challenges her unwavering resolve, while Dixon is a change character, and his arc builds towards an unlikely education. And ultimately, I think that's what the film is "about." At first, this is a film appears primed for explosion (driven by Carter Burwell's extraordinary score). By the end, it builds towards understanding. But clearly, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri isn't an endorsement of vigilante justice. It's the only ending I think I could accept without contrivance, but I felt a bit let-down.

RE: genius scene-work.
No Country... comparisons have been bandied about. Stop this film seconds into scene and watch a new viewer, where could it possibly go? Frances McDormand is cuffed in prison and the scene ends with her comforting Woody Harrelson, her arrester, and calling for aid. After Sam Rockwell chucks Caleb Landry Jones out the window (for me, the most harrowing scene in the film), what is the worst possible inhumanity to him? Being fired by a black superior.

It's a charged, exhausting experience afterwards I needed a drink and silence to unpack what I'd just watched. I think I want a bit more from the ending, although I'm not sure what, but Three Billboards... is a cleansing experience. I have more than a little anger these days, so it was more than welcome.

I'd be remiss if I didn't single out Sandy Martin, Charlie's Mom from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as Dixon's overbearing mother, and of course Samara Weaving as Charlie's young girlfriend whose dimness arrives with a hilariously off-beat affectation. Not a dumb girl, but clearly in a different world. I loved when Frances McDormand "joined" them at the table, seemingly poised to thrash Hawkes with the bottle of champagne but instead handed it to them and said simply "Be nice to her, Charlie." (Or was it "Don't be mean to her"?)

This moment reminds me: Martin McDonagh must be nominated for Best Director. This is a gorgeously paced and laid out story but with more than enough visual storytelling to warrant mention.

Right now, I think this film is going to win but I don't know where it's going to win beforehand. It's hard to see Dunkirk losing the PGA, DGA, or BAFTA. Perhaps it takes the SAG, but I could also see that going to Get Out. It's ineligible for a WGA nomination, so it could possibly win Best Picture without a single precursor going its way. As I've written elsewhere, my reasoning is that this film is going to hover near the top of everyone's ballot. Fans of Get Out and Lady Bird will have Three Billboards... near the top as well. Wins for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress seem in the bag. I have the most difficult time imaging anyone wrestling Best Actress from Frances McDormand ESPECIALLY after whatever speech she gives at the Golden Globes. I'd imagine it will make Meryl Streep's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes seem likely the tiniest fart in the back of the room. I can't imagine Frances McDormand playing Mildred Hayes, harnessing this much strength and rage for a performance, and not saying something terribly memorable. Nominations for McDonagh, Carter Burwell's score, film editing. When one looks at cinematographer Ben Davis' career, a nomination seems in the cards as he usually works on huge profile projects like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, two of the most visually distinguished Marvel movies. But it might be a stretch. Either way, that would put it at three wins which seems to be par for the course these days.

And then Best Supporting Actor... Sam Rockwell is in. His character has such an arc. Despite his horrific actions, you may not like him by the end of the film but he is clearly a better person. And yet, I never felt like I was watching a performance that was going to win. But I never felt that for Mahershala Ali either, so what do I know?
I love Mister Tee's idea that Woody Harrelson is the soul of the film (McDonagh writes good suicidal souls), but I also don't think this performance is anything new for him. He doesn't even seem warmer than usual. And I think I know why...it's his forgotten performance in The Edge of Seventeen. That lovely little performance in a mess of a film that began his redirection from Woody Boyd roles to Sam Malone roles. I wouldn't be opposed to a nomination, mainly because Harrelson has been excellent in just about everything this decade, no matter how forgettable, from his terrifying hick in Out of the Furnace to his GBF in Friends with Benefits.


Wow this film really resonated with you. So much passion for it. Can't wait to see it now.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:54 am

Ditto. BJ and Tee, this thread is an excellent resource post-viewing.

At this point, we should just retitle this thread THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI -- SPOILERS! right?

flipp525 wrote
I think this and Get Out are perhaps the two most relevant and timely films of the year (and you just know The Post would love to take that title) in different, yet equally compelling ways. And that's why I think they'll be on their own at the top, vying for Best Picture against more traditional Oscar fare this year.

I agree. Watching Three Billboards..., I felt keyed up. It tackles themes of systemic racism, police brutality, rape and murder, and sickness within Trump's America, featuring a proud old cunt taking a stand against injustice. I don't know if Martin McDonagh wrote this with the ghosts of Treyvon Martin and Michael Brown in mind, but it was a cathartic viewing experience.

But the film excels to me as a piece of dramatic writing, not necessarily as a statement. It succeeds on character exploration and genius scene-work. A friend of mine asked "What is this film about?" and I said "It's about what two people do with their anger." Mildred Hayes is a resolve character, and her act challenges her unwavering resolve, while Dixon is a change character, and his arc builds towards an unlikely education. And ultimately, I think that's what the film is "about." At first, this is a film appears primed for explosion (driven by Carter Burwell's extraordinary score). By the end, it builds towards understanding. But clearly, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri isn't an endorsement of vigilante justice. It's the only ending I think I could accept without contrivance, but I felt a bit let-down.

RE: genius scene-work.
No Country... comparisons have been bandied about. Stop this film seconds into scene and watch a new viewer, where could it possibly go? Frances McDormand is cuffed in prison and the scene ends with her comforting Woody Harrelson, her arrester, and calling for aid. After Sam Rockwell chucks Caleb Landry Jones out the window (for me, the most harrowing scene in the film), what is the worst possible inhumanity to him? Being fired by a black superior.

It's a charged, exhausting experience afterwards I needed a drink and silence to unpack what I'd just watched. I think I want a bit more from the ending, although I'm not sure what, but Three Billboards... is a cleansing experience. I have more than a little anger these days, so it was more than welcome.

I'd be remiss if I didn't single out Sandy Martin, Charlie's Mom from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as Dixon's overbearing mother, and of course Samara Weaving as Charlie's young girlfriend whose dimness arrives with a hilariously off-beat affectation. Not a dumb girl, but clearly in a different world. I loved when Frances McDormand "joined" them at the table, seemingly poised to thrash Hawkes with the bottle of champagne but instead handed it to them and said simply "Be nice to her, Charlie." (Or was it "Don't be mean to her"?)

This moment reminds me: Martin McDonagh must be nominated for Best Director. This is a gorgeously paced and laid out story but with more than enough visual storytelling to warrant mention.

Right now, I think this film is going to win but I don't know where it's going to win beforehand. It's hard to see Dunkirk losing the PGA, DGA, or BAFTA. Perhaps it takes the SAG, but I could also see that going to Get Out. It's ineligible for a WGA nomination, so it could possibly win Best Picture without a single precursor going its way. As I've written elsewhere, my reasoning is that this film is going to hover near the top of everyone's ballot. Fans of Get Out and Lady Bird will have Three Billboards... near the top as well. Wins for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress seem in the bag. I have the most difficult time imaging anyone wrestling Best Actress from Frances McDormand ESPECIALLY after whatever speech she gives at the Golden Globes. I'd imagine it will make Meryl Streep's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes seem likely the tiniest fart in the back of the room. I can't imagine Frances McDormand playing Mildred Hayes, harnessing this much strength and rage for a performance, and not saying something terribly memorable. Nominations for McDonagh, Carter Burwell's score, film editing. When one looks at cinematographer Ben Davis' career, a nomination seems in the cards as he usually works on huge profile projects like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, two of the most visually distinguished Marvel movies. But it might be a stretch. Either way, that would put it at three wins which seems to be par for the course these days.

And then Best Supporting Actor... Sam Rockwell is in. His character has such an arc. Despite his horrific actions, you may not like him by the end of the film but he is clearly a better person. And yet, I never felt like I was watching a performance that was going to win. But I never felt that for Mahershala Ali either, so what do I know?
I love Mister Tee's idea that Woody Harrelson is the soul of the film (McDonagh writes good suicidal souls), but I also don't think this performance is anything new for him. He doesn't even seem warmer than usual. And I think I know why...it's his forgotten performance in The Edge of Seventeen. That lovely little performance in a mess of a film that began his redirection from Woody Boyd roles to Sam Malone roles. I wouldn't be opposed to a nomination, mainly because Harrelson has been excellent in just about everything this decade, no matter how forgettable, from his terrifying hick in Out of the Furnace to his GBF in Friends with Benefits.
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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby flipp525 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:14 am

BJ and Tee - you guys have covered a lot of ground about this film in a very illuminating way. I read through this whole thread after I got back from Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri last night and really enjoyed reading your thoughts. It's definitely the best movie I've seen this year and I think it has very strong Oscar potential in multiple categories. I'm looking forward to seeing it again to re-experience its many, many pleasures.

I think this and Get Out are perhaps the two most relevant and timely films of the year (and you just know The Post would love to take that title) in different, yet equally compelling ways. And that's why I think they'll be on their own at the top, vying for Best Picture against more traditional Oscar fare this year. Three Billboards, to borrow a line from Network, "articulates the popular rage" of the moment. I think that's one of the reasons that (as BJ mentioned) as many awful things as Mildred does, the audience is still behind her right up through that fabulous open ending. Who wouldn't want to just burn shit down right now, tell people to fuck off, and (excuse my French) cunt-punch someone? She has a zero-fucks-given attitude that feels very appealing at the current moment. I love the idea (I think it was Tee) that this felt like an entire novel in one film. Mildred Hayes is such a complete character on the screen in almost every way. Everything about her performance felt very "lived-in."

Right off the bat, on the subject of unexpected surprises, I really loved Mildred's reaction to Chief Willoughby after he spit the blood in her face. It was such a look of instant concern and warmth that it completely took me by surprise. I also was fully expecting Dixon to commit suicide at the end and was so glad that he didn't (was I the only one who thought they might be going for a closeted gay thing with him? I'm almost glad they didn't; it would have seemed out-of-place and kind of tired).

All the actors do an excellent job of capturing the complicated milieu of these Missouri people. A little provincial, a bit down-in-the-holler, but multi-faceted and intelligent about the ways of people and the overall unfairness of life. Tee, I liked your idea that Woody Harrelson is the soul of the picture. You also get the feeling that he had been composing those letters in his mind for a long time and the emotional resonance of them - meted out in wonderful beats - was a powerful way to keep him in the film after he had exited it corporeally. I think his performance should also be considered for an Oscar. Sam Rockwell is just wonderful and fully deserving of all the buzz he's received about his work in this film. He was constantly surprising me throughout the film and I really loved him in the scene at the bar when he hatches his plan to catch Angela's killer.

But this movie really belongs to Frances McDormand who gives one of the truly great performances of this decade I think. She's been leading up to this performance for awhile now (one can't help but compare Mildred Hayes to Olive Kitteridge). Yet, from her opening moments, the character feels fresh, original, commanding, and instantly interesting in a unique way. One of the many strengths of her performance is how she telegraphs Mildred's thoughts and emotions. That opening shot where she kind of zeroes in on the tattered billboards and comes up with her grand idea is beautifully rendered. Then there is the later reveal that her daughter was actually raped, murdered, and burned at the foot of one of them. This is such an appealing manner of withholding information until it can be more potent. The reveal of what's on the first sign is hugely effective and adds a shocking, dark pall over the proceedings. And, my god, that scene she has with the deer is just a stunning piece of acting. She has a ton of "Oscar clip" moments, but I think that is her best in the film. I have to also agree that this is at least equal to McDormand's iconic Fargo performance. I love the fact that both roles (Marge and Mildred) see her in the (literal) driver's seat. They both also have those awkward dinner scenes with a "date" they'd rather not be on.

A college friend of mine named Malaya Rivera Drew played the local news reporter who interviews Mildred and is covering the billboard story. Malaya has done a bunch of things in the past (including a great season-long arc on Showtime's The L Word), but this is probably the most viewed performance she's ever given and I'm so, so proud of her (and jealous that she gets to be in this amazing film!). I love that the town is so small that billboards - perhaps the most antiquated form of advertising in this day in age - make such a huge splash. It's so old school how Mildred has harnessed this forgotten technique to make her powerful statement. Families of missing people often use those same billboards to broadcast their loved ones' faces to as many people as possible. Mildred's message is simple: The people who can do the most have let down those who need help the most. A powerful, timely precept indeed.
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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:46 pm

I wouldn't say it has Slumdog potential -- that was a movie that had some pretty clear crowd-pleasing elements. (As soon as I read the reviews calling it Dickensian, I had the idea it could cruise to victory.) Three Billboards strikes me as more like No Country for Old Men -- a movie that becomes the front-runner almost in spite of itself. There are elements to the film that will surely put some people off; it's not a comforting sit, even though it does provide moments of grace. But the emotional pull of it, and the pleasurable narrative surprises it offers, should win a lot of people over -- much in the way the gripping thriller parts of No Country got it to the podium despite many people being baffled by its last 15 minutes.

Of course, I suppose you could argue No Country eased its way to best picture just as effortlessly Slumdog, sweeping through the Guilds. But it missed at the Globes and BAFTA, so it had a rockier route, and of course wasn't nearly the commercial juggernaut.

This is all getting ahead of ourselves, of course, as we have no idea yet of the commercial fate of Call Me by Your Name, Shape of Water, The Post or The Phantom Thread, any of which could swoop in and take the race by storm. It's even possible I'll have a different favorite six weeks from now.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:38 am

I think it's a very possible winner -- it's a dark movie, but I imagine many people will just find it so cathartic right now, especially in Hollywood, where a vote for a film on this subject matter would essentially be seen as a vote for every aggrieved woman sick and tired of watching abusive men evade punishment.

(Of course, I do think other films on the slate speak to the moment as well -- we might well be underestimating Get Out, which speaks to the anger of the Trump era in a similar manner, and was a genuine cultural phenomenon. But there are also kinder films -- Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name -- that I could also see really meaning a lot to people, and would also feel like a vote for progressive values even if they aren't as angry movies.)

My hope, of course, is that we have a real race between a lot of genuinely exciting movies, and I think that is definitely a possible scenario.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:17 am

For the benefit of those who haven't seen the movie yet, and can't lay our eyes upon this spoiler-filled thread lest we turn to dust... would you, Original BJ and Mister Tee, say this may very well be far and away the Best Picture front-runner? It's seemed to me since Toronto that this might become the film to beat. Post-Weinstein, it feels undeniable right now.

Yeah I know, don't be hasty, wait and see, we're all still licking our wounds from La La Land, etc. Nonetheless this is, sight unseen, my premonition as of now, that 3 Billboards could achieve a Slumdog Millionaire trajectory. IOW, a movie that ordinary people (ie, people who are not us) simply didn't see coming all of a sudden being THE surprise sensation everyone is going to see. Nobody planned on seeing it, nobody knew this was something they'd be told they had to go see, but before long it's the conversation starter of the year, dominating both entertainment news and regular news. Is this at all feasible?

Or, people will "hot take" the film to death, and it could crash and burn. Who knows?
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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:30 pm

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Mister Tee wrote:I think it's interestingly ambiguous why he picks up the file.


There's also another possibility -- Dixon could realize that solving an unsolved case causing the police department a lot of grief could be the ticket to getting his job back, and he frantically tries to save the file with that (consciously or even subconsciously) in mind.

I guess it isn't insane to think he might be contemplating suicide in that scene -- which, yes, directly follows him finding out the guy from Idaho doesn't match the DNA. He's lost his job, he's also been badly burned (which will leave physical and emotional scars), and he's stuck with his very challenging mother. Certainly compared to Willoughby's reason for killing himself, Dixon's scenario doesn't seem like it should make him as desperate, but he might well be having the thought.

Oh yeah, the DNA would probably be somewhere else as well, you're right.

One detail I forgot to add -- it's interesting that McDonagh gives the line "We aren't all bad" to the black police chief, given that the argument that not all cops are bad typically pops up in the conversation surrounding police officers' treatment of racial minorities.

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:14 pm

AT THIS POINT, JUST ASSUME SPOILERS, AS THERE'S NO WAY TO RESPOND TO POINTS WITHOUT DOING SO. AND THERE ARE A LOT OF PLOT SURPRISES IN THE FILM, SO DON'T DENY YOURSELF THE PLEASURE OF THESE BY READING SPOILER-FILLED POSTS

The Original BJ wrote:There's a great detail I didn't catch the first time that helps set up one of the movie's most carefully plotted sequences: after Willoughby's suicide, Dixon is listening to music on his headphones, as outside, officers are hugging one another in mourning, and even making noise inside the station. Later, Dixon has to go to the station to pick up Willoughby's letter, but can't until after hours because of his obnoxious behavior toward the new police chief. He then is listening on his headphones -- something that has been established as a habit of his, and one that will prevent him from hearing anything else going on, so he doesn't hear Mildred call the police station to make sure that it's empty. (And she does this TWICE, wanting to make absolutely certain she won't cause harm to any actual human being). Then, he still doesn't hear the the bottles breaking or flames growing, until he's impacted physically, at which point it's too late.


What's especially good about this element is, it doesn't just work as plot device, but also as metaphorical summation of Dixon's character. You have the sense he's listening to music all the time because it blocks out the voices in his head -- specifically, the voices of his mother telling him how useless he is. It gives him a certain level of peace, but it also causes him harm -- literal harm, in the fire-bomb scene you mention, but also just the harm of being totally out of it on important information. Recall, in the first Mildred/Willoughby scene, Willoughby confides about his cancer, and Mildred's reply is "Everybody knows that." But Dixon DIDN'T know -- when the cough-blood scene comes, it's the first Dixon knows about Willoughby's condition. And Willoughby is probably his closest colleague.

The Original BJ wrote:It's also really interesting that Dixon saves Mildred's daughter's file before rushing out through the fire. Presumably, there are a lot of important files in that police station, so why does he save this one? Is it just because it's the one on his desk? Or, for all his immaturity, does he genuinely care about solving that case (something which seems clearer and clearer as the film goes on)? OR... does the fact that he's reading Willoughby's letter at that moment, extolling him that he has the potential in him to be better, inspire him to grab that folder before he flees? (It's also, obviously, important plot-wise later on -- the DNA test from the crime scene would be in that file.)


I think it's interestingly ambiguous why he picks up the file. Since I then had a very negative slant on the character, it crossed my mind he might blame Mildred for his losing his job (indirectly -- it was her hiring the billboards that got him to throw the guy out the window) and be thinking there was some way he could get back at her if he looked deep enough into the file. Your interpretation is also possible. Or some combination of the two: he left thinking one, but Willoughby's words echoed in his head enough he moved on to another.

I'm not 100% sure the DNA would only be in the file. The testing lab would probably have it saved, if all else failed.

The Original BJ wrote:Both times I saw the film, the audience collectively gasped at the sight of Dixon leaning on his rifle before he calls Mildred in the penultimate scene. The suggestion seems to be that he's about to commit suicide. Honestly, it doesn't SEEM like the events leading up to this scene would drive him to suicide, but I guess the twisty nature of the film's plot by that point had us all thinking that wouldn't be a totally out-of-left-field curve ball.


I'm actually having trouble remembering exactly when this scene occurred. I'm thinking it was after the new chief had given him the bad news on the DNA test? That struck me as motive enough for an act of despair -- he'd thought he'd done something major enough to redeem himself (maybe enough to get his job back), and with that dashed, he saw no hope at all.

A few other things related to that:

In his scene with the new chief, I was certain the chief's "great work, but -- " was going to be "...but you can't have your job back". So, even in the momentary pause there, McDonagh slipped in a narrative surprise.

The way Dixon held the gun DID suggest suicide was a possibility, and the fact that he didn't echoed the earlier switcheroo, where we thought Willoughby was going to, as he told his wife, kill the horses, but did something different.

It seems significant that Dixon's decision to become confederates with Mildred occurs after a scene showing his mother asleep/silent. (I for a moment wondered if he'd killed her, or was about to.) As if only with her voice quieted can he make decisions for myself.

That there's so much to talk about narratively tells us something about McDonagh: while he comes from something of a hipster tradition in his subject matter/tone, structurally he's very much a classicist -- every moment is carefully chosen to fit into an overall scheme. I remember, as far back as Beauty Queen of Leenane, being surprised that a play that seemed to have kinship with Pinter or Shepard had, by the end, sneakily evolved into a well-made play. This film is very much in that tradition.

The Original BJ
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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Nov 18, 2017 12:17 am

Saw the movie again today, so here are some additional thoughts:

HUGE SPOILERS FOLLOW ABSOLUTELY DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE

In my earlier post, I'd mentioned that Mildred butts up against systemic issues that prevent her from achieving justice for her daughter. This is true, but in a different, more complex way than you'd expect. A lesser film might have had the police actively sabotaging the investigation, or showing that the men at the police station -- and they are all men -- just don't care about this case as much as they should. But that isn't the case -- Willoughby has done his due diligence, there just are no more leads to follow. The systemic hurdle, then, is a social one: the reaction that the town as a whole has to Mildred, making her entire quest more difficult. There's a crucial line where Willoughby tells Mildred that the town is on her side with respect to the tragedy (i.e. sympathizing with her because her daughter was raped and murdered) but not on her side when it comes to the billboards (i.e. demanding that institutions of justice work for her and making a fuss when they don't). You can draw a direct line from this idea to arguments like, say, child rape is terrible, but how dare you feminists use that to try to stop our senate candidate from winning an election (or any other conflict where people ostensibly are on an aggrieved person/group's side until they start making too many waves.)

One thing that's also interesting is the contrast between the fact that everyone in Ebbing seems to be up on the local gossip -- kids at school bully Mildred's son over the billboards, the guy who puts up the billboard knows Dixon's history of racial prejudice, everyone is of course aware of the names of those involved in the recent rape/murder tragedy -- and the fact that people don't actually seem to know each other very much. For instance, Red Welby knows Mildred by name, but he doesn't know who she is when she first walks into his office. Mildred and Mrs. Willoughby don't seem to have met before their scene together. The young black guy who puts up the billboard has to introduce himself to Mildred when he comes to her house, even after doing a job for her earlier in the film. This dichotomy seems to shore up one of the movie's main ideas, that it's easy to develop preconceptions about people you don't know, and if everyone made more of an effort to actually connect with their neighbors, they might surprise one another, and they'd all be a lot better off.

There's a great detail I didn't catch the first time that helps set up one of the movie's most carefully plotted sequences: after Willoughby's suicide, Dixon is listening to music on his headphones, as outside, officers are hugging one another in mourning, and even making noise inside the station. Later, Dixon has to go to the station to pick up Willoughby's letter, but can't until after hours because of his obnoxious behavior toward the new police chief. He then is listening on his headphones -- something that has been established as a habit of his, and one that will prevent him from hearing anything else going on, so he doesn't hear Mildred call the police station to make sure that it's empty. (And she does this TWICE, wanting to make absolutely certain she won't cause harm to any actual human being). Then, he still doesn't hear the the bottles breaking or flames growing, until he's impacted physically, at which point it's too late. He is then saved by the one character in the movie who has been established as feeling generous toward Mildred, thus helping her get off the hook when she'd otherwise be caught red-handed. This is very careful, effective plotting.

It's also really interesting that Dixon saves Mildred's daughter's file before rushing out through the fire. Presumably, there are a lot of important files in that police station, so why does he save this one? Is it just because it's the one on his desk? Or, for all his immaturity, does he genuinely care about solving that case (something which seems clearer and clearer as the film goes on)? OR... does the fact that he's reading Willoughby's letter at that moment, extolling him that he has the potential in him to be better, inspire him to grab that folder before he flees? (It's also, obviously, important plot-wise later on -- the DNA test from the crime scene would be in that file.)

The bar fight is also really deftly set up. If it hadn't been, this would have come off REALLY convenient -- Dixon just happens to overhear some guy confessing to the rape/murder in a bar? But it doesn't come off that way for three reasons: 1) The guy has already been established as a complete creep, who flat tells Mildred he wishes he had raped her daughter. 2) Willoughby's letter set up the prospect that the case might be solved when someone bragged about the crime casually in a bar one night, so there's a dose of irony in the fact that he was right about that... 2a) and it's neat that these two things are set up in basically the same scene in Mildred's store. And 3) The guy doesn't end up being the killer -- when we all expect him to be -- and therefore he's not the easy solution for our characters he seemed he'd be.

I also can't believe I missed what Mister Tee pointed out -- that WE know this guy was the creep who threatened Mildred in her store, but that SHE has no idea as she's headed off to Idaho. Which, of course, makes it likely she'll have SOME reaction when she meets him again. Whether or not that makes her more likely to want to kill him seems totally up in the air, and dependent on however she and Dixon feel after they've made the (LONG) drive from Missouri to Idaho. But it certainly makes the ending feel more complicated than if the guy had been someone she'd never encountered.

And it's worth pointing out there's another contemporary hot-button issue that the movie weaves in -- the treatment of Middle Easterners by Americans in the military overseas -- as talked around in the scene between Dixon and the new chief near the end of the movie.

McDormand's reaction to Dinklage's "I'm going to go use the little boy's room" is a complete killer.

Both times I saw the film, the audience collectively gasped at the sight of Dixon leaning on his rifle before he calls Mildred in the penultimate scene. The suggestion seems to be that he's about to commit suicide. Honestly, it doesn't SEEM like the events leading up to this scene would drive him to suicide, but I guess the twisty nature of the film's plot by that point had us all thinking that wouldn't be a totally out-of-left-field curve ball.

Knowing that Willoughby's day with his wife and daughters will in fact be his last day alive makes that entire sequence play so differently -- I found myself quite overwhelmed by his death and the reading of his letter to his wife on a second-go-round.

And lastly, it was reported today that this movie will NOT be eligible for the WGA Award, which makes me seriously annoyed that I won't be able to give it my vote!

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Re: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:48 pm

I've found a lot of McDonagh's work, for stage and screen, exceedingly enjoyable, but too often within a narrow range -- a jokey, violence-heavy universe that felt similar to Tarantino's films. The Pillowman, a truly wonderful play, persuaded me he's capable of a good deal more, and Three Billboards vindicates my hopes. This is a dense, textured piece of work that covers a great deal of ground and works pretty much fully. An excellent film that I actually find a bit daunting to write about at the moment, because it deserves significant discussion and I may not have the energy right now to meet that standard. But, a few thoughts:

I have the same notion BJ expressed, that I'd like to see the film again, not just to re-experience its pleasures, but to better appreciate its totality -- to observe how its many many pieces fit together so beautifully. This is a film that directly covers many hot-button contemporary issues -- rape, crime, racism, police brutality, small-town small-mindedeness -- but also deals with issues like family, motherhood, friendship, grief. It also sometimes deals with issues in indirect, disguised ways (as when the billboards are aflame, in a way that for me quickly evoked a Klan cross-burning). And it does all this within the framework of an incredibly clever, beautifully structured and twist-filled narrative.

I'd gone in thinking the praise for the film's screenplay would be due to McDonagh's verbal facility -- and there's certainly plenty of that on display, whether in full-on speeches (like Mildred's dismissal of her butting-in pastor) or in throwaways (like the 19-year-old's "Which is the one with guys on horses?"). But the real writing achievement here is how he's put on-screen something that feels like it has the breadth of a novel -- a story that goes further and further, to unexpected places, and winds up in just the right place. And one shouldn't neglect McDonagh's work as director, either. For a guy who comes from the theatre, he doesn't feel proscenium-bound in the least; this works fully as a project conceived for film, not retro-fitted from a stage concept. The visuals may not be Scorsese-vivid, but the film feels fully confident in the medium -- right up to its closing shot, which echoes the opening one, except travelling with company rather than solo, and heading the opposite direction.

I'LL TRY NOT TO SPOIL, BUT MAY NOT BE SUCCESSFUL: There are just a multitude of moments that stick in the mind. The shocking turn in the scene of Willoughby's interview with Mildred. The touching/carnal exchange between Willoughby and his wife, and the sudden reversal. The heartbreaking flashback to Mildred's fight with her daughter. The humor and insight of Willoughby's letters. Peter Dinklage's sudden appearance as White Knight, and Mildred's subsequent lack of gratitude. The moment you realize what Dixon is up to in the bar scene. Mildred's encounters with her ex. Dixon's final line. All the moments when people turn out different from what you'd expect -- like Dixon and the billboard-renter in the hospital, or the newly-arrived police chief. And the moments where the plots doesn't go where you assume, like the results of the DNA test. McDonagh's inventiveness even carries into the film's aftermath -- the Mildred/Dixon dialogue suggests they may not finish out their mission...but we know Mildred is going to be surprised what she finds when she arrives, and she may change her mind again. I can't think of the last film I saw that had so many elements to which I reacted so strongly.

As BJ says, everybody in the cast is first-rate; this has to be a SAG Ensemble candidate, right? Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes and Peter Dinklage all have their moments (as do minor characters like Dixon's mom, or Mildred's employer, or Clarke Peters' chief). But, primarily, you have to focus on the triumvirate of Harrelson/Rockwell/McDormand. Harrelson's role made me think a bit of how I reacted to Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men -- that there was another supporting actor in the film who clearly had the stronger/larger role, but I wanted to somehow reward this man for being as good as I've ever seen him on film. Harrelson' Willoughby is, I'd say, the soul of the movie -- he's annoyed by Mildred and Dixon, and maybe by everybody, but at the same time appreciates their good sides, and is willing to wait for that good side to assert itself. He fills the role with humor and irony that lingers even after the character has disappeared. Rockwell's Dixon is also a terrific creation, and in the end a more central one. He's a kid, even at his advanced age, because is mother has browbeat him to remain one (you can catch a slight stammer whenever the subject of his mother arises). He's a loose cannon, one only vaguely aware of his limitations, and up to a point he can seem irredeemable. But he's got enough spark of good in him that the right kind of encouragement -- like Willoughby's letter -- can set him on a path of, if not righteousness, at least better-ness. His character really seems to travel a path.

Finally, McDormand. I'm not sure I'd agree with BJ that it's her finest creation -- I think Fargo will always be the thing she brought into being of which I couldn't have conceived without her. But let's say that this is a role that matches it in variety, in intensity, and is as close to being a perfect role for her existing persona as could be imagined. She flashes a Joan-of-Arc-like conviction throughout, judging the world harshly at every turn (though we ultimately find out the one she's judging most harshly is herself). She's on a crusade -- even in the moments she's wrong -- and doesn't crack a smile until the film's very last moment. And she has all kinds of wonderful moments, many of them profane, but some surprisingly tender -- none more than her broken-hearted colloquium with the deer, which I would bet will be her Oscar clip. This is as complex a portrait of a woman consumed by grief and guilt as I've ever seen.

Nominations all around. I think the film could be a surprisingly strong best picture contender -- as BJ says, in the vein of No Country for Old Men, or Birdman -- because, despite its tonal challenges, it connects to basic human emotions in a powerful way. Best movie so far this year. Maybe my favorite since Boyhood. A real knockout.


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