THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comedic drama from highly regarded Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (“The Cripple of Inishmaan,” “A Behanding in Spokane”), who—as with this movie—wrote and directed the critically acclaimed films “Seven Psychopaths,” “In Bruges” and the Oscar-winning (for Best Short Film, Live Action) “Six Shooter.”
After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Best Actress Academy Award-winner Frances McDormand, for “Fargo”) makes a bold move, commissioning three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (three-time Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson, including for “The Messenger” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt”), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell)—an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence—gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
In addition to Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, the cast includes Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Željko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Clarke Peters, and Samara Weaving.
The film has already garnered several major awards and is nominated for seven Oscars: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Ms. McDormand), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mr. Harrelson and Sam Rockwell), Best Original Screenplay (Mr. McDonagh), Best Achievment in Film Editing (Jon Gregory), and Best Original Score (Carter Burwell). THREE BILLBOARDS won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture—Drama, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (Mr. Rockwell) and Best Screenplay—Motion Picture, and it won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, ditto for a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Mr. Rockwell again), and Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
What the filmmakers have to say about their work:
“There’s something hopeful about the rage of Mildred’s character, and of single mindedness and decency of Willoughby’s character. I hope they’ll be moved and amused in places, and angry in places and I think that I hope they’re just told a great and slightly different story.”
On Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes: “I wrote Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for Frances. There wasn’t any actress around who I thought had all of the elements that Mildred needed. She had to be a great actress and someone who’s in touch with a kind of working class sensibility. Frances brought to the role of Mildred—truth and anger and passion, integrity and honesty.”—Martin McDonagh, Writer & Director
“One of the great things about Martin’s writing is that you get inside these characters and you really start to care about them. At the end of the film, you feel involved and wish the story would go on. This is a story that’s going to stay with you.”—Woody Harrelson, as Chief Bill Willoughby
“This film will offer a lot of surprises and hopefully a lot of depth and feeling for audiences. Maybe they’ll see themselves in some of the characters and feel less alone in the world.”—John Hawkes, as Charlie
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is about a woman with a strong determination for change in her community because of what’s happened to her personally. It has characters that you would initially judge at first but as you go on you realize the depth and dimensions to them.”—Peter Dinklage, as James
What the critics are saying:
“Martin McDonagh has freighted Three Billboards with a tragedy that allows the performers — primarily Frances McDormand — to play to their range.”—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“As we watch this wonderful movie we’re able to see who Mildred and all the others really are, and, better still, who they may become.”—Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
“So sharply written that it cuts, the third movie from award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is a dramedy that starts with cleverness and wit, then opens up into something truthfully human.”—Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
“Funny, brutal and breathtakingly beautiful. Two exceptionally raw lead performances, supercharged by a bold script from Martin McDonagh, could make THREE BILLBOARDS this year’s Awards-upsetter.—Terri White, Empire magazine
“What Martin McDonagh does offer is a consistently off-kilter view of human behavior, brought to life by a first-rate ensemble including John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones, Clarke Peters, Zejlko Ivanek, and Brendan Sexton III.”—Leonard Maltin
Running time: 1 hr, 55 mins. * Rated R (for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references)
The AFS Screening Series at LPCA continues on Friday and Saturday, April 27-28, with IN BETWEEN, a new film from Israel by Palestinian filmmaker Maysaloun Hamoud making her directorial debut.