Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
It's billed as a “comedy,” but its humorous moments are few and
far between, and mostly sarcastic. It's
really an edgy drama with multi-dimensional characters, thrown together in
some small town in the heartlands where empathy is in short supply.
But there's plenty of conflict.
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is a tough Midwesterner who helps
run a local gift shop. She's
divorced, and still has a high school son at home.
She's lost her daughter to a brutal rape/murder where the local
police have no clues about the perpetrator.
She's so frustrated in her grieving that she rents three billboards
to ask the Sheriff why nothing's been done.
The billboards create an instant sensation around town, and in fact
polarize the town into factions. Sheriff
Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is well-respected as a lawman, but is also
suffering from a fatal illness. His
deputies all revere him, so nobody seems to be working too hard on solving
the Hayes case. The Sheriff
says they have no DNA match on the database, no witnesses, and no clues.
Some of the townsfolk “back the blue,” and others, like Mildred Hayes,
feel the police aren't doing enough, and some of them have their own
grievances, like how the people of color are treated.
There are plenty of colorful characters here.
Officer Jason Dickson (Sam Rockwell) is an angry accident waiting
to happen. The Sheriff's wife,
Anne (Abbie Cornish), seems to have a drinking problem.
Mildred's ex, Charlie (John Hawkes) is a powder keg waiting for a
random spark. His attraction
to a local bimbo, Penelope (Samara Weaving) doesn't deter his rancor
toward Mildred, though their relationship now is complicated---they can
have cross words and tender moments in the same conversation.
Probably like they did when they were married.
The Church is compared to The Bloods and The Crips.
People haul off and do violent things with seemingly no
bullying and intimidation, and downright physical assault.
But there are also incredible moments of grace.
Writer and Director Martin McDonagh has created a Heartland tableau
featuring stark emotion, desperate strategy, and exasperating familiarity.
Frances McDormand's role isn't glamorous, but you can't take your
eyes off her, anyway. This one
is not sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
But it is good theater.