Friday, December 15, 2017     Volume: 18, Issue: 41
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
COCO
DADDY’S HOME
FERDINAND
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
JUST GETTING STARTED
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI


Where is it playing?: Parks Plaza

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $ Full Price

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one shape shifter of a movie. Is it a comedy, tragedy, or quest for vengeance, redemption, and catharsis? Director/writer Martin McDonagh (The Guard) manages to convince you it’s all of the above at different twists and turns in the story.

We’re dropped late into the aftermath of mother Mildred Hayes’ (Frances McDormand, Hail, Caesar!, Moonrise Kingdom) grief and pain. Months have gone by since her daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) was viciously raped and murdered while walking home one night in their small town. Still, local law enforcement has made no arrests and doesn’t even have any suspects. While driving down a forgotten road just outside Ebbing, Mildred gets and idea and proceeds to march into town and pay for three billboards in a row painted red with big black letters that say “Raped while dying,” “And still no arrests?” and “How come, Chief Willoughby?”

It’s a move that instantly sets the town aflutter, leading the viewer down several storylines. There’s police chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, The Glass Castle, Nanking), who feels targeted by the billboards while he’s simultaneously dealing with life-threatening cancer. And we can’t forget Willoughby’s ne’er-do-well deputy Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Frost/Nixon, In The Soup), who has a history of allegedly torturing black people but somehow still has the trust of his boss. And there’s the squirmy ad salesman Red (Caleb Landry Jones, Get Out, The Social Network), who surprisingly shows enough gumption to put the billboards up even though he gets flak being (we think) one of the few gay people in town. Meanwhile, the doe-eyed used car salesman James (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones) makes not so subtle passes at Mildred after she gives an interview on TV.

At home, not everyone is on board with Mildred’s bold move. Her teen son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea), is thrown further into depression by the memories the billboards drag up of his sister. And things get downright violent between Mildred and her abusive ex-husband, Charlie (John Hawkes, Lincoln).

The writing is impeccably sharp, with searing lines thrown in at the most emotionally potent moments, and yet, there are so many laugh-out-loud moments, too, in this film that deals rather heavily in anger and sorrow. The acting is superb, particularly performances from McDormand, who plays Mildred as hardened and determined to find justice, and Harrelson as the seemingly hick police chief creates so much nuance and depth for his character. And yet, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri requires being OK with swallowing a hefty dose of imaginative realism. We’re dealing with very real problems, but this is a world where the consequences for, say, throwing someone out a window or committing arson don’t really line up with reality at all. (115 min.)

—Ryah Cooley




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