Kaylee BrewsterMovie Review
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a rare film that can take a serious topic and give it heart and humor without losing the gravity of the situation.
The serious topic is the unsolved rape and murder of the daughter of Mildred (Frances McDormand). Mildred decides to buy three billboards outside her town of Ebbing, Mo., to ask the police chief why her daughter’s death remains unsolved.
As you can imagine, that doesn’t go over well with Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) or officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell). This is where the story begins and from then on out follows a series of engaging actions and reactions from beginning to end, which explains audiences’ frequent bursts of laughter and gasps.
There are two things that make “Three Billboards” stand out and the reason for the film’s success: the script and the acting.
The script (deservedly nominated for an Oscar) creates interesting characters from the hardened Mildred, to the clueless and dislikable Dixon, to the sympathetic and easy-going Willoughby. All these characters combine into a perfect storm of conflict.
The humor also comes in what these people say. Mildred can spout off profane insults faster than Dixon can comprehend them. Dixon is always tripping over his words. Willoughby is the most level-headed of the two, but even he gets some hilarious lines. The audience was laughing so much you’d think it was a full-fledged comedy.
Without strong acting, however, these characters would be as flat as a billboard. McDormand plays Mildred’s toughness to a T, as well as her pain of losing her daughter and her frustration with the investigation. Rockwell is brilliant at combining Dixon’s laughable qualities, but also at showing his less-than-ideal ones. Willoughby has his own personal issues he’s dealing with while working this investigation. Harrelson shows his character as a man who understands Mildred’s pain, but is unsure of the direction the investigation is going. It’s no surprise that McDormand, Rockwell and Harrelson all received Oscar acting nominations for their roles.
The score by Carter Burwell, also nominated for an Oscar, is another aspect that helps the film stand out. Dark and driven, it that captures Mildred’s emotion, but with a country twang fitting to the setting.
“Three Billboards” is a black comedy that could have gone very wrong if the tone, acting and humor didn’t work with each other. Fortunately, with an outstanding script and phenomenal performances, “Three Billboards” manages to be one of the greats.