Much credit goes to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Its analysis on a small town’s skewed priorities on law and order feels inspired by the United States’ many cultures, especially from the perspective of Mildred, played by Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo). She never says a single kind word to anyone, but her true personality blooms once she routinely plants flowers in front of her blood-red billboards as if at the Vietnam memorial. Once there, she shares a melodic conversation with a deer beside the highway, keeping her human. The rest of Ebbing, Missouri also seems given up on America’s growth, set instead to let desires run on dunking others beneath self-worth.
Though be warned: the three steps to the feature’s creation appears a tad too rushed. The pre-production process mentions the Catholic church of the town exactly once in the first act, missing out on its powerful potential to serve a stronger MacGuffin to the story beyond just its hindrance to society. The production process’s cheap burn makeup effects look poor compared to the wounds put on Leonardo DiCaprio’s bear wounds. The post-production process disrupts its own narrative flow by throwing a flashback into a moment when dialogue would have sufficed.
Looking at the Oscar’s past Best Picture winners, Spotlight and Moonlight, they both kept a consistent visual style, unlike Three Billboards. Primarily, the editor, Jon Gregory (Four Weddings and a Funeral, In Bruges) was a poor choice to put together the feature; a potential Oscar contender ought to require someone more experienced to present a population of human beings turned into thoughtless advertisements. Likewise, cinematographer Ben Davis (Guardians of the Galaxy) resorts to unnecessarily pointing the Steadicam upwards. If treated like a mockumentary similar to This Is Spinal Tap, then a greater impact could linger in this movie’s legacy.
Now with the problems out of the way, basically everything else in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri accomplishes its civic duty.
Obviously, cops nowadays are no State Farm, so here their portrayal gets treated positively. Mildred’s middle-class family home in particular takes no breather: her ex-husband continues to abuse her while her last shared memory with her murdered daughter reeks in high regret. Maybe the people here were born with it, maybe the pressure to advertise caused everyone to become whatever social message they always talk about. Its timelessness in leaving the precise year vague adds the extra snap, crackle, and pop to the core theme.
My commemorations go to the finger lickin’ good performances by the whole cast, every single one proves the power of an ensemble, particularly the underrated actor Caleb Landry Jones (Breaking Bad, Get Out). Yet Sam Rockwell in particular is after an Academy Award nomination, and understandably so: his performance turns agitated one minute and collapsing in silent tears the next.
I appreciate how Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri knew not to excessively milk its timeliness right after it calls the cops a “N*gger Torturing Business,” since they lack concentration on actual crimes. Although these cops prefer the equally undignified term “Persons of Color;” even they the authorities think Black people fall short against “normal” White people. This mouth-gaping social relevance soon turns ironic once a new Black police sheriff comes into town.
Beyond the Blacks/Police conflict that challenges old stereotypes, jokes about people’s weight and height keep going and going and going without crossing the line towards the offensive. The head of Ebbing’s P.R. business even has the name Red, because everyone else around him sees red—both literally and figuratively!
It’s a greatly clever style of writing which helps you to think different in a harsh way. We all want and need to preach about what makes us pound our fist on the table, and as depicted here, our abuse of our First Amendment rights turns us into our branding, erasing the definition between our wants and our needs. It really boils down to: Where do you want to go today?
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Buchanan, Kyle. “Best Actress Watch: Frances McDormand Is NSFW, But Is She a Safe Bet for Oscar?” Digital image. Vulture. New York Media LLC, 16 Sept 2017. Web. <http://www.vulture.com/2017/09/will-frances-mcdormand-get-an-oscar-for-three-billboards.html>.
“MacGuffin.” Urban Dictionary. Web. <https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=MacGuffin>.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Fox Searchlight Pictures. Web. <http://www.foxsearchlight.com/threebillboardsoutsideebbingmissouri/>.