Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

2017, R, 115 min. Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving, Sandy Martin, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Condon, Clarke Peters, Željko Ivanek, Brendan Sexton III, Amanda Warren, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Nick Searcy.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 17, 2017

Getting one’s arms around this powerful yet sprawling movie might prove as difficult as grasping its intriguing yet unwieldy title. Every effort, however, should be made to catch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, if for no other reason than its towering performance by Frances McDormand and the film’s uncompromising tone that is so uncannily of-the-moment that it pierces society’s gauzy moral fabric. Three Billboards’ range spans between anguish and comedy in ways that can seem both dizzyingly daring and narratively pat, but never is the film dull or unthinking.

As the camera glides over a winding two-lane road, the film’s opening scene zeroes in on Mildred Hayes (McDormand), with furrowed brow and chewing furiously on a fingernail while driving past three ramshackle billboards, and we can see the glimmer of an idea taking form in her mind. Mildred is the heartbroken mother of a teenage girl whose rape and murder months earlier has yet to be solved. In her grief, she decides on a plan to shame the small-town police chief (Harrelson) into action. Her plan upsets the community; disturbs her son Robbie (Hedges), who has tried to remain comfortably numb in the wake of his sister’s death; and embarrasses her ex-husband (Hawkes), who, annoyingly, has taken up with a 19-year-old know-nothing (Weaving). Dressed perpetually in blue coveralls and bearing a stern facial expression, Mildred wears her anguish like a protective armor plate. She is fearsome and gives no quarter to anyone offering sympathy – not the police chief who has late-stage cancer, nor the priest who comes offering compassion. To her way of thinking, all who have not participated in solving her daughter’s murder are culpable for the crime. McDormand embodies a tenacious but flawed character who does not fear unlikability, and in doing so creates one of the most memorable personages in her incomparable career (one that includes Fargo’s Marge Gunderson and the titular Olive Kitteridge).

In his third feature film, acclaimed stage director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) exercises his penchant for combining comedy, crime, and coarse language and ideas. Despite Mildred’s palpable sorrow, Three Billboards takes delight in puncturing shibboleths and expectations. The film also features a couple of priceless doofuses who milk comedy from every second onscreen: in particular, Sam Rockwell’s bigoted patrolman Jason Dixon, who’s a mama’s boy and his own worst enemy, and the new girlfriend of Mildred’s ex, who confuses things like polo and polio. A comparison of the matriarchal forces played by McDormand and Dixon’s frightful mother (Martin) might also prove illuminating in this first film for which McDonagh has written leading roles for female characters.

However commanding and absorbing Three Billboards may be, the film is diminished by its neatness and unconvincing resolutions to the many dilemmas it puts into play. There’s a redemptive ending for the bigot, a predictable romantic pairing between the film’s two black characters, and an uneasy balance between pathos and comedy. (One particular sore point that continues to stick with me is why a figurine thrown in anger by a suspected rapist isn’t examined for fingerprints.) The story’s wealth of characters manages to keep things interesting but also draw attention away from the film’s central pursuits. Nevertheless, Three Billboards is a momentous achievement, presenting us with a remarkable female character and topical plot about the conspiracy of silence that pervades our culture. Those who do not participate with this film risk, as Mildred might say, culpability in our greater sins.

Showtimes

Tue., Dec. 12

4:55, 7:50, 10:50
AFA 11:00am, 2:00

Wed., Dec. 13

11:35am, 2:45, 6:20, 9:30

Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/slaughter-lane

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Tue., Dec. 12

4:15, 6:50, 10:50
AFA 1:15

Wed., Dec. 13

12:50, 3:50, 6:50, 10:50

Tue., Dec. 12

3:45, 6:15, 9:20
AFA 12:15

Wed., Dec. 13

12:40, 3:40, 6:15, 9:15

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail, 512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Tue., Dec. 12

CC/DVS 12:45, 3:30, 6:45, 9:30

Wed., Dec. 13

CC/DVS 12:45, 3:30, 6:45, 9:30

Thu., Dec. 14

CC/DVS 12:45, 3:30, 6:45, 9:30

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Tue., Dec. 12

CC/DVS 11:20am, 2:10, 4:50, 7:40

Wed., Dec. 13

CC/DVS 11:20am, 2:10, 4:50, 7:40

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Tue., Dec. 12

luxury lounger 1:35, 4:35, 7:35, 10:35
Luxury Lounger CinéArts 1:35, 4:35, 7:35, 10:35

Wed., Dec. 13

luxury lounger 1:35, 4:35, 7:35, 10:35
Luxury Lounger CinéArts 1:35, 4:35, 7:35, 10:35

Tue., Dec. 12

luxury lounger 12:05, 3:10, 6:30, 9:30
Luxury Lounger CinéArts 12:05, 3:10, 6:30, 9:30

Wed., Dec. 13

Luxury Lounger CinéArts 12:05, 3:10, 6:30, 9:30

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 12

luxury lounger 11:00am, 2:10, 5:00, 7:50, 10:35
Luxury Lounger CinéArts 11:00am, 2:10, 5:00, 7:50, 10:35

Wed., Dec. 13

luxury lounger 11:00am, 2:10, 5:00, 7:50, 10:35
Luxury Lounger CinéArts 11:00am, 2:10, 5:00, 7:50, 10:35

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Tue., Dec. 12

1:10, 4:50, 7:35, 10:20

Wed., Dec. 13

1:10, 4:50, 7:35, 10:20

Thu., Dec. 14

1:10, 4:50, 7:35, 10:20

Flix Brewhouse

2200 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/244-3549, www.flixbrewhouse.com/round-rock

Tue., Dec. 12

CC 1:30, 4:00, 7:00, 10:10

Wed., Dec. 13

CC 1:30, 4:00, 7:00, 10:10

Thu., Dec. 14

CC 1:00

iPic Theaters Austin

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, 512/568-3400, www.ipic.com

Tue., Dec. 12

12:30, 3:55, 7:30, 10:50

Wed., Dec. 13

12:30, 3:55, 7:30, 10:50

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 12

CC/DVS 1:30, 4:30, 7:30, 10:25

Wed., Dec. 13

CC/DVS 1:30, 4:30, 7:30, 10:25

Thu., Dec. 14

CC/DVS 1:30, 4:30

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/austin/

Tue., Dec. 12

11:45am, 2:45, 6:00, 10:15

Wed., Dec. 13

11:45am, 2:45, 6:00, 10:15

Thu., Dec. 14

12:55, 3:55

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Tue., Dec. 12

1:10, 3:35, 7:10, 9:35

Wed., Dec. 13

1:10, 3:35, 9:35

Thu., Dec. 14

1:10, 3:35, 7:10, 9:35

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar Blvd, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 12

CC/DVS 11:00am, 2:05, 4:10, 6:50, 9:30

Wed., Dec. 13

CC/DVS 11:00am, 2:05, 4:10, 6:50, 9:30

Thu., Dec. 14

CC/DVS 11:00am, 2:05, 3:55, 6:35, 9:55
READ MORE
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving, Sandy Martin, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Condon, Clarke Peters, Željko Ivanek, Brendan Sexton III, Amanda Warren, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Nick Searcy

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