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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Grief makes monsters in this funny, savage film

© Fox Searchlight Pictures A mother (Frances McDormand) challenges the police to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.
     In the seven months since Mildred Hayes’ (Frances McDormand: Hail, Caesar!) daughter was murdered, no progress has been made in the case. Furious, Mildred decides to shame the corrupt, small-town police department into action. She uses her meager savings to rent three dilapidated billboards on the lonely road to her home. 
     The billboards detail the specifics of her daughter’s death and call out Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson: LBJ). The town of Ebbing is shocked and embarrassed.
     When news crews report on the shocking claims, the town divides. The minority community, long the target of police racism, sides with Mildred. Business owners and church and community pillars harass and threaten her.
     Also furious are the police, especially Willoughby’s favorite deputy, Dixon (Sam Rockwell: F is for Family), who isn’t opposed to using violence to get his way. They press her and her son to give up on the billboards.
     Mildred remains resolute, keeping the billboards up as long as her daughter’s case goes unsolved.
     As the town descends into chaos, each person makes choices that call into question the righteousness of their cause. Does violence only beget more violence? Or can it be a catalyst for change?
     Brutal, brilliant and surprisingly funny, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a must-see for movie lovers. Writer/director Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), is one of the sharpest in his field. He excels at building deeply flawed characters whose complicated motives and terrible choices make this a very human story.
     No one in this film is likeable, but they are all enthralling. Dixon is a violent bigot driven by dogged loyalty. Willoughby is a family man who loves his community but allows some crimes to go unpunished for the sake of getting along. Even Mildred is not pure, motivated as she is by deep guilt that manifests in violent outbursts. She wants more than answers; she wants blood.
     For her ferocious performance of a wounded woman who channels her grief, fear and despair into rage, McDormand should lead the Oscar race this year. 
     As Dixon, Rockwell offers a wonderful performance. He transforms a clichéd villainy into something oddly pathetic, an almost quixotic figure, desperate to do right — but never sure what right is. 
Great Drama • R • 115 mins.
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