Film Fridays is a project initiated by Darren from over at The Arty Plantsman and me.
(By now you should know the drill so I’m not going to copy the intro text this time, and if you don’t know what this is all about just click here.)
So far my usual approach to Film Fridays contained mostly of films that make you smile or laugh – in times like these we can all do with a little cheering up, right?
But today I’m going to talk about a film that, although it does have its funny moments, and actually is called a black comedy drama film, is about much more than making people feel good for an hour and a half.
It wants to make people think, and feel, and yes, sometimes laugh, that too.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was written, directed, and produced by Martin McDonagh and starring (a stunning) Frances McDormand as a Missouri woman who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder.
Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes and Peter Dinklage appear in supporting roles (brilliant cast).
The film received widespread acclaim, particularly for the performances of McDormand, Harrelson, and Rockwell, and McDonagh’s screenplay. McDormand and Rockwell each won an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, and SAG Award for Best Lead Actress and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.
To the story:
In the (fictional) town of Ebbing, Missouri, Mildred Hayes is grieving over the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, Angela, several months earlier. Angry over the lack of progress in the investigation, Mildred rents three abandoned billboards near her home and posts on them: “Raped While Dying“, “And Still No Arrests?“, and “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” The billboards upset many townspeople, including Chief Bill Willoughby and the racist, violent, alcoholic Officer Jason Dixon. The open secret that Bill suffers from terminal pancreatic cancer adds to everyone’s disapproval. Despite incurring harassment and threats, and the objections of her son Robbie, Mildred remains determined to keep up her billboards.
Here are a few memorable quotes:
Mildred Hayes : What’s the law on what ya can and can’t say on a billboard? I assume it’s ya can’t say nothing defamatory, and ya can’t say, ‘Fuck’ ‘Piss’ or ‘Cunt’. That right?
Red Welby : Or… Anus.
Mildred Hayes : Well I think I’ll be alright then.
Mildred Hayes : So how’s it all going in the nigger- torturing business, Dixon?
Dixon : It’s ‘Persons of color’-torturing business, these days, if you want to know. And I didn’t torture nobody.
Mildred Hayes : Wow. When you can’t trust the lawyers and the advertising men, what the hell’s America coming to, huh?
Mildred Hayes : My daughter Angela was murdered 7 months ago, it seems to me the police department is too busy torturing black folk to solve actual crimes.
And here a short clip from one of the scenes:
On how the story developed:
While traveling through the Southern United States in around 1998, Martin McDonagh came across a couple of accusatory billboards about an unsolved crime, which he described as “raging and painful and tragic” alleging the murder of a woman named Kathy Page by her husband Steve Page in Vidor, Texas. The billboards highlighted the incompetence of police work and deeply affected McDonagh; he said that the image “stayed in my mind […] kept gnawing at me” and presumed that they were put up by the victim’s mother. This incident, combined with his desire to create strong female characters, inspired him to write the story for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDonagh discussed the creative process, saying that it took him about ten years to “[decide] that it was a mother who had taken these things out. It all became fiction […] based on a couple of actual billboards”.
The musical score was written by Carter Burwell, who had also supplied the score for McDonagh’s films In Bruges . As well as Burwell’s score, the film features songs by ABBA, Joan Baez and many others, making it a real feast for the ears.
This is a very angry film about a very angry woman, a mother who has lost her child in the worst possible way, and it feels wrong to say that I love this film, or that I like it, but in a way I do.
The reasons for this lie in the outstanding performance of the actors, the brilliant script and dialogue and the courage that it takes to name things as they are and not to hide behind so called political correctness.
I’m well aware that this film might not be to everybody’s liking, but I hope that my post at least made you consider watching it, if you haven’t already.