Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (NC16)
Starring Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson
Directed by Martin McDonaugh
Frances McDormand is a force of nature in a role that won her Best Actress at the recent Golden Globes. She plays Mildred Hayes, a divorcee and grieving (and angry) mother searching for closure to her daughter’s unsolved murder.
Her anger drives her to erect the eponymous signage to spite and shame the beloved sheriff (Woody Harrelson, fantastic) and his racist and not-very-bright officer (Sam Rockwell, just as fantastic) for their crappy police work. When Mildred becomes persona non grata because of her actions, she gets even angrier (one show-stopping and, dare we say, crowd-pleasing scene sees her tearing a concerned priest a new one for meddling in her business).
This powerful study of grief, guilt and retribution by writer/director Martin McDonaugh (In Bruges) is twisty and offers no simple answers. Neither is it downbeat through and through; there are unexpected (and sometimes uncomfortable) moments of levity coming from Peter Dinklage as Mildred’s wannabe suitor, and John Hawkes as Mildred’s abusive ex-husband. How McDonaugh managed to keep the tone consistent is amazing. It’s a delicate balancing act not unlike a circus performer juggling balls on a unicycle. On a high wire. It’s a stunning feat. (****1/2)