Director: Martin McDonagh.
Inspired by spotting some billboards about an unsolved crime, McDonagh, writer and director of films In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths writes and directs another sharp, quick-witted, bittersweet comedy that’s probably more drama than funny. I’m a great fan of his work and always look forward to his films but I never know quite what to expect.
Our protagonist is Mildred, mother of a murder daughter who stubbornly challenges the local authorities for not concluding their investigation and failing to bring anyone to justice. Now she’s incredibly obstinate, calculating and impossible to ignore, especially with her latest stunt of the three billboards that upset some of the locals and obviously the police department.
She’s abrasive, verbally aggressive to a vivid level, making her an absolute treasure to watch as she attacks, sometimes not just verbally, everyone that challenges her. She has that presence that demands attention and strikes fear into those who share it. The clash of attitudes and egos is abundant with Mildred going up against not only the police chief Willoughby (Harrelson) , but his bigoted, arrogant officer Dixon (Rockwell) her ex-husband and some of the town’s people such as the dentist.
But there’s also that glimmer of a hurting and tragic human being, in fact; the audience is constantly bombarded with such strong performance of character you could (but you really can’t) miss McDonagh’s slips of humility that happen right at the perfect moments that keep this film well grounded.
The story is totally captivating and engaging with surprising twists and heartfelt revelations that evoke powerful mixed emotions throughout. Harrelson and especially Rockwell are amazing in support and opposition. But every character here is perfectly portrayed and well balanced.
It’s a bittersweet drama that’s often awkward, feeling uncomfortably happy especially when it’s sometimes brilliantly inappropriate. It’s full of remorse and eventual compassion, the journey the story takes and the character transition become incredibly touching and strangely uplifting towards the conclusion.
McDonagh’s regular composer, Carter Burwell, provides a brilliant western themed and often somber score that could be easily put to a modern western with cowboys and saloons. It’s accompanied by a small mix of country, folk and pop music with tracks from Joan Baez, ABBA Townes Van Zandt and Monsters of Folk with a great scene for Dixon’s love for soprano Renée Fleming amazing voice.
McDonagh’s absolute masterpiece is storytelling in it’s utter brilliance brought alive by McDormand and cast. But especially McDormand.
[EDIT] It’s an unsurprising and well deserved Oscar for McDormand who was originally reluctant to accept the role even though her part was originally written with her in mind. Equally well deserved Oscar for Rockwell too. Quite the accomplishment for a film to receive Oscars for both leading and supporting roles.
Running Time: 10
The Cast: 10
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for McDormand's performance alone.