Three Billboards Kicks off Oscar Season
Oscar Season is a wonderful time of year. The time where we, as movie fans, are graced with each studio’s most critically acclaimed films. This year, I started off my Oscar binge by checking out Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri– which surpassed all of my expectations.
This story was intriguing and the pacing was terrific. However, this movie was carried by its cast. This movie features standout performances from Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, and Zeljko Ivanek. While I think the entire ensemble was perfectly cast, and all had their moment in the film, I have to point out Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.
Frances McDormand played a laser focused grieving mother (Mildred Hayes) who just wants someone to answer for the gruesome rape and murder of her daughter. Her daughter has been gone for about 8 months when the film begins, and she wants to bring the case back into the public eye. Her solution is simple. Rent out 3 billboards that haven’t been used in quite some time. The words she puts on the billboards, however, cause quite the stir. They read as follows- “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, “How come Chief Willoughby?”
The fact that she points out Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, is what causes people to give Mildred backlash. He is a highly respected and well liked Chief of Police, who is happily married, and a father to two daughters…who also happens to have terminal cancer. The townspeople who respect him and love him all want this billboard to be taken down. Mildred, however, does not budge one bit from her plan. Her resilience and persistence to inspire the police to continue hunting for her daughter’s killer will not be stopped. This is something this movie does very well, by making you care about both sides. You want Mildred to find peace, but you also feel for the loveable Willoughby. Having this divide gets the audience far more interested in the story.
Now onto Sam Rockwell, who I believe to be terribly underrated, absolutely shines. [Let me put a sidebar out there for my fellow science fictions fans. If you haven’t seen Moon- watch it tonight. Sam Rockwell is the shit.] He has a truly impressive range, and he shows this range with this character, Jason Dixon. His character had so many layers, and Rockwell put out an Oscar worthy performance. Jason is introduced to the audience as the town moron, who also happens to be a closet racist and a raging alcoholic. With these tendencies imbedded deep into his character’s roots, he STILL finds a way to redeem himself in this movie. This is all because of Sam, he acted the shit out of this role.
THAT SCENE (Spoilers to follow!)
I will forever remember this movie for many reasons, but it does have one moment in particular that I have been replaying over and over in my head. It is set up throughout the entirety of the film, with Chief Willoughby refusing to give up on Jason Dixon. He sees the good in Dixon and continues to believe in him. Then, Willoughby gives up on his battle with cancer and tragically shoots himself in the head. Dixon is stonewalled by this act and completely loses his shit. Who does he take it out on? The motherfucker who agreed to put up the billboards, Red Welby (played by Get Out’s Caleb Landry Jones). Dixon gathers himself, accepting what had happened to his dear friend, and calmly walks across the street to Red’s office. He shatters the front window, and chaos ensues.
The entire scene was powerful, right down to the song selection. Jim James is singing soothing melodies against the backdrop of chaos and it works to perfection. I wouldn’t have imagined a better song for this scene. I have listened to this song about 15 times in the past week, while picturing this scene in my head. When a movie has this kind of lasting impression, it reminds you that great cinema does still exist. Thanks Martin McDonagh.
In Closing- I am predicting a wave of Oscar wins for this film, two of them going to Frances McDormand (Best Actress) and Sam Rockwell (Best Supporting Actor).
When I saw this trailer for the first time, I was intrigued, then I saw who was directing and could feel the money leaving my bank account for my tickets and concessions. Martin McDonagh has only made three feature length films. His first two were In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012). He sure does take his time, but he know how to tell a story. Three Billboards was his third, and best movie to date. I can only hope his fourth movie doesn’t take another 4 or 5 years.
For more Three Billboards discussion, be sure to listen to the Scene Invaders Podcast!
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