I usually give my reviews without spoilers but I am not able to avoid it in this so be warned ahead of time or return later after you have watched it.
Three Billboards is one of the front runners this award season with its actors poised to win the big prize at the Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor and it’s in the running for Best Picture also just winning Best Drama at the Golden Globes.
All I knew about the movie was that it was about a woman shaking things up and seeking revenge after her daughter was raped and killed and justice wasn’t served. So it was a surprise to me when I read a tweet on Golden Globe night alluding to racism but it was all still fuzzy, so I made a point to see the movie.
So yea, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is engulfed in grief months after her daughter’s death and she is full of anger that nothing has been done by the police. She buys three billboards with each saying “Raped While Dying”, “And Still No Arrests” and “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” Chief Willoughby is played by Woody Harrelson and he actually takes it best because being so beloved, the rest of the town takes up for him and hates Mildred. Led by the heinous Office Dixon, a racist ill tempered cop who pretty much has no boundaries and partakes in torturing black prisoners. The film goes through all the range of emotions with anger in the forefront among its characters. Mildred’s grief gets the best of her and she sets the police station on fire and a chain of events from this leads to some sort of character redemption for Dixon (which I didn’t buy)
This movie was off. Not technically or in performances because actually the best thing about this movie which I cannot take away, were that the performances were top notch.
Sidebar: Frances McDormand always seems sullen and sour that I sometimes wonder is that much of a stretch for her?
The movie was dark, which I usually have no problems with but with this, I was uncomfortable and just felt yucky. I tried to think of all the things I didn’t like and I can acquiesce that I am riding straight on emotion with this one.
I did not like the racist angle. I am not trying to be that annoying “everything is racist” person but I honestly didn’t get why Martin McDonagh (director) thought making Dixon racist truly showed his awfulness as a person. It just felt like pandering to the country’s climate right now. You can show how and why a person is awful without throwing in a cut and paste racist job.
We never see the black prisoner he tortured, the black characters in the movie seemed like throw ins. I won’t even get into Peter Dinklage’s character. All seemed unnecessary. The other issue I had was Chief Willoughby had terminal cancer and ended up taking his own life. He leaves suicide notes for a lot of people in the town including Dixon and Mildred (he even pays to have her billboards stay up). Dixon is reading his note when Mildred sets the station on fire and in that moment he suddenly becomes a better person and seems set on helping Mildred find the killer.
I mean come on. He reads one letter and suddenly becomes an un-terrible person? I get it. Maybe McDonagh was trying to show how we are all awful in some form or the other and it’s hard to place someone on the good and bad spectrum but one letter does not change a human as awful as Dixon (he threw someone off a roof because he was sad!) I remember thinking that this movie makes so uncomfortable I am gonna be really pissed if its awarded Best Picture. My emotional side sees it as rewarding the awful people of this town (haha)
Overall, when I replay the movie in my head, I can see how it has been called masterful. It had a story line that kept you wanting to know more and as I mentioned, the performances were top notch. It’s just that for me something about it felt dirty. I’d recommend watching it if only to inform your own decision about the movie and get ahead on your Oscar movie list.