From the moment I saw the official trailer I knew it was going to be a gooden. I wasn’t let down-(until the ending.) It was a film that was super hot until the end acted like a fire extinguisher and knocked out the all the movies heat, leaving memories of a good thing of what could have been in its tracks. But more about that later.
So the plot in a nutshell – A grieving Mother from a small town puts up billboards near her home to spike public and police interest again in her raped and murdered daughters dormant case. The billboards ruffle many peoples feathers and causes a dominio effect of pain and repercussions around the town due to the simple, yet controversial messages on them aimed at the town Sheriff Bill Willoughby played by Woody Harrelson. Played very well by him I might add.
Frances McDormand gives a powerful and beautiful performance as angered mother Mildred Hayes. Acting isn’t always about what is said, it’s the silent moments between characters where no words are required. Think of Tom Hanks in Captin Phillips on the bed at the end of the film and Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness in the restroom with his son, these clips come straight to the forefront of my mind, I love acting of the eyes. McDormand is PERFECTION in this in this movie, every second she is on screen, talking or not.
If you love a drama that takes your breath away literally, like the kind of gasps where your mouth remains open for 10 seconds after the moment has passed, I can count 6 moments in this film. I literally had to remind myself to close my mouth and refocus. The moments came out of nowhere and left me stunned. They left me twisting and turning on this rollercoaster of a ride not knowing what was next. FANTASTIC!
The story itself reminds us of humanity, forgiveness, love and hate. In a ‘delicate‘ way, where you can’t help but feel like you know these people and their stuggles. You feel like you know exactly what each character is going through but everyone in the town is a picnic short of a sandwich (intentionally backwards) you know they are all mentally messed up but it’s never mentioned just excepted. One can relate.
Director Martin McDonaghs’ ‘delicate‘ way of dealing with the films issues could been seen as lazy or as genius. Do not see this film and expect the themes to carry the movie. Rape, abuse, suicide, police brutality, racism, depression to name a few, the Director skims over a lot of deep issues, just passed them by like Billboards on a road. This is something you may hate about the film if you like the directors to do the thinking for you. I generally do, but I feel McDonagh did right by planting the seeds and letting you come to your own conclusions as to what bad behavior is, the media does such a powerful job of telling us what to think about issues that it almost creates an adverse effect and a rebellion against the protesters of the problems themselves. This movie in a time when these issues are so rife in todays world, it just leaves them unresolved letting you decide how it could have been delt with and what you would do in that situation yourself. This could leave some movie goers mighty frustrated. I personally feel this was a wise move for the 115 minutes the movie has, it did enough and even had plenty of time to dish out some laugh out loud moments and whitty one liners too, a testament to the writing and superb acting. Reminding us again, it’s just a movie based on a fictional story. Don’t relate it to real life, just enjoy it for the story alone. If you care too much you will leave so mad at the fact there was little to no justice for and of the characters in the movie.
My pet peave during the film was with Anne the wife of Chief Willoughby and her questionable accent played by Abbie Cornish. Cornish is an Australian actress. I did not know this at the time but knew something was off when she spoke. As I am viewing a film I don’t want to be distracted and break away from the story just because the accent doesn’t match the character speaking. I didn’t think Cornish came across believable as Harrelsons wife either, but if she was so perfect for the role and had to be cast just have her be Australian. Why not? Now at least every time she speaks instead of me placing bets with myself to see if she is South African, Australian or British, I will remain engulfed in her acting abilites. Like I said it’s a pet peeve of mine – bad accents.
Sam Rockwell plays Jason Dixon the racist, nasty cop dealing with some kind of mental disability that was never touched on either, could be why he gets a free pass with his awful ways. Really? I just couldn’t help but think of Doofy Gilmore from the comedy Scary Movie. I’m sure this is not what Rockwell would have wanted. The plot should have been based on him and his story or the Mothers alone, by not focusing on one it did injustice to what could have been a deeper character. A great character, but sadly he was never really explored, I feel that was a shame as Rockwell could have had a truly powerful performance and may have scored some awards for it. As it stands now it would depend on the other competition out there to see if he will get a nod for the big O or not. As it just missed a beat for me. So back to his character. Officer Jason had some kind of redemption, changed man moment but this is never towards his crazy mother, the women he punched in the face or the black people he mistreated, we could have witnessed some remorse at a point in the movie where it’s just him and a black couple in the bar. No words were exchanged so I feel it was a missed moment between them for some great acting.
All in all, the movie was moving, well written and acted. I did enjoy it, I would nominate Frances McDormand for a best actress in leading role, and it’s a good contender for best Original Screenplay but I would have to see it again to see if it deserves a best picture. Only because on first watch the story was a good one but lost me at the end. Without giving too much away. Well I wouldn’t read on if you have not seen it, I will wrap up the review here and say Go and see it!
Ok for rest of us and the nosey ones - here is my peave about the ending.
There is a man who comes into Mildred’s store causing some commotion, he implies he may have known her daughter and leaves. Now that alone would have been a pointless interaction if he never came back to town, but he does, and Jason overhears him bragging in a bar and some commotion happens again. As a viewer I’m thinking this is going somewhere – it doesn’t go anywhere, but the movie still ends with Mildred and Jason going on a search together – for him! This just left me with too many questions, as did the Directors choice to show us the burnt grass where the daughter died, that happens to be right where the billboards are, that also happens to be in view from Mildred’s house. Why? I don’t think it needed to be written in that the girl was burnt by the billboards. It just makes it weird and im left asking too many questions about it. Like I am with the ending.
It for me was a cringe worthy ending to what I would say is otherwise a very, very good movie. The ending just doesn’t tie anything up and leaves you knowing nothing more than what did to begin with. As soon as she picked up the phone to Jason and the music started playing I started repeating ”No don’t end now, please don’t have this be the ending” It was, and I walked away from the film thinking they ‘may’ kill someone who ‘may’ have killed someone. Huh! whomp whomp!
My rating is 7/10, worth a watch for the acting and screenplay, just leave your heart at the door.