Who Else HATED ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’?

I’m not saying that ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is overrated or isn’t as good as the hype around it. I am saying it is an awful film, and I don’t understand why it has been so lauded. It is not a great film. It is not a good film. It is a bad film.

 

WARNING: The following is a SPOILER-FILLED review and critique of the critically lauded and Golden Globe-winning film.  

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ is a mess of a film where motives, tone, and storyline is all over the place.  I cannot remember having been jerked around and emotionally manipulated as much as I felt upon leaving the movie theater.  Thank heavens the film is populated with an all-star cast on their A-game. 

 

But even a world-class chef can’t make prime rib out of dog sh*t.

 

Ultimately, ‘Three Billboards’ is worse than the sum of its parts, and the blame falls on writer-director Martin McDonough and film editor Jon Gregory.

 

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is being marketed as a “darkly comic drama” from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). Months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

 

 

 

The Whole is Lesser Than the Sum of its Parts

Despite my strong contempt for this film, the majority of the cast pour their heart and soul into the material that they are given.  McDormand, one of the greatest actresses of all-time, buries herself in the role of Mildred Hayes. McDormand gets a few brief moments to showcase her versatility.  She is an actress who will go any lengths to immerse herself in character.  She shows no vanity in an industry that is soaking in self-congratulatory vanity.

 

Harrelson and Rockwell both shine in drawing out nuance and complexity in their roles.  I think the ease that they are able to take McDonagh’s etch-a-sketch characterization and flesh them out comes from (a) having previously worked with the writer-director, and (b) McDonagh’s affection for their characters.  Willoughby and Dixon are proof that McDonagh not only fancies their characters more than Mildred Hayes, but that McDonagh is better at writing male characters than getting into the internal psyche of women.

 

The rest of the cast does an admirable job with the breadcrumbs they’ve been given for roles (what a waste of an opportunity to underuse Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, and Peter Dinklage) but ‘Three Billboards’ is essentially a three-person play.

 

 




 

Why is ‘Three Billboards’ a “Bad” Movie?

Forget hype.  Forget accusations that ‘Three Billboards’ is overrated or that criticism is backlash from its frontrunner status for awards.  Here is why I believe ‘Three Billboards’ is not a good movie.  

 

1. It doesn’t work as a dark comedy/drama.

What makes ‘Three Billboards’ such an epic misfire?  Well for starters, it is either a grossly unfunny dark comedy, or a drama that undercuts its subject matter with misplaced attempts at humor.  The tone and execution of this film is its biggest offense.  The majority of humor is not only unfunny, it is cringingly unfunny.  Part of the offense goes to the writing and part of the blame goes to editing.  Jon Gregory is listed as the film’s editor.  I don’t think he’s mastered the importance of timing, pauses, and space necessary to have humor effectively land in dramatic films.  It can be done.  The Coen Brothers and Tarantino have consistently infused humor and levity to counter moments of terror, threat, and violence.  McDonagh and Gregory’s use of humor and levity undercuts the serious stakes at play in ‘Three Billboards.’

 

Film critic Robbie Collins, in his overgenerous five-star review, wrote, “It is a film that continually forces you to interrogate your own reactions to it – both in terms of what you’re laughing at and why.” Unlike Collins, I was forced to interrogate my own reactions to what I wasn’t laughing at and why.

 

One scene, in particular, encapsulates my problems with the film.  

 

 

Charlie, Mildred’s ex-husband, pays her and their son Robbie a visit.  Charlies is played by the criminally underused John Hawkes. It has been implied that Charlie beat Mildred while they were married, and his entrance stokes the tension and threat of violence.  Things quickly escalate between the two and Charlie suddenly throws the kitchen table, strangles Mildred by the neck, and only yields when their son Robbie (Hedges) holds a kitchen knife against his dad’s throat. 

 

I’m not sure if there is a creative message buried beneath the surface, but if there is, I missed the point.

 

 

The confrontation is diffused by Charlie’s 19-year-old girlfriend entering the home and awkwardly babbling about needing to use the bathroom.  Her dialogue and character are intended for comic relief, but her character belongs in a different movie.  Immediately, Mildred, Charlie, and Robbie pick up the knocked over furniture and resume their conversation like nothing happened. The tension is this scene was palpable.  

 

The comic relief was forced, and the entire scene felt disingenuous and was sabotaged.

 

The violence in the film is horrific and undercuts any claims that the film is a dark or black comedy.  When I’ve watch Tarantino or Coen Brother dark comedies, the out-of-place violence provoke bemusement and amusement.  Deaths or acts of violence often follow with, “did that just really happen?” or a sense of shock and guilt for laughing at the scene.

 

There is one particular scene where I think McDonagh and Gregory successfully switch tones.  Mildred Hayes is at the police station being interviewed (interrogated?) by Chief Willoughby.  The banter between the two is biting and playful, elusive and ambiguous.  The tension between the two continues to build when suddenly Willoughby coughs blood that splatters on Mildred’s face.  They both freeze in shock and disbelief.

 

Willoughby is apologetic and scared.  Mildred is concerned and compassionate.  The tone suddenly shifts from humor and anger to worry and care.  It is the best scene in the entire film.  Perhaps McDonagh is better at framing a scene that switches from humor to pathos than going from tension to comedy.

 

2. The profanity felt forced and was distracting.

McDonagh’s writing style just doesn’t click with me.  There is something about how he employs profanity that I find grating and disingenuous.  I’m not against the use of profanity if it fits the characters and the world they inhabit.  I think that is why despite my repulsion of the N-word, the characters in Tarantino films speak in a manner that is consistent with the world he has created.

 

McDonagh’s use of profanity, in contrast, is cheap, mostly for shock value, and either betrays the characters or tells us nothing about them.  And if Tarantino is in love with the n-word, then McDonagh gets off on overusing the two c-words, “c*nt and c*ck!”

 

3. The film cannot decide who is the central character.

I was excited to see a film give Francis McDormand a huge canvas to showcase her acting abilities.  And McDormand pours her heart and soul into her depiction of Mildred Hayes.  The problem is that she is not given much to do and is a part of an ensemble.  ‘Three Billboards’ really isn’t her story.

 

Mildred Hayes still an enigma to the audience by the end of the film, because the film and its filmmaker show little interest in digging deeper into the pain, guilt, and damage of her character.  She merely functions as the first domino that orchestrates the chain reaction of events in the town and townspeople. And because Mildred is not given any arc for growth or insight, the only change that has occurred in her is fatigue. She’s weary. 

 

 

Contrast the limited character advancement that Mildred undergoes with the arc and focus that McDonagh pays to Woody Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby or Sam Rockwell’s Officer Dixon.  Willoughby dominates the second act and Dixon dominates the third act.  And each exploration is at the expense of exploring Mildred Hayes.  

 

I found the storylines of both men to be compelling.  I think Harrelson provides the heart of the film, and Rockwell represents the hope of the film.  But, I found both explorations to be all-too-brief, all-too-convenient, and therefore the resolutions felt quick, inauthentic, and unearned.  

 

The film is sold as a mother’s vigilante pursuit of justice. It is headlined by Francis McDormand. Yet the film and its filmmaker seem more interested in the white, male characters. It is a tone-deaf mistake.  It is either (1) an egregious error of marketing, or (2) a manipulative move in order to convey that the film is #woke despite its fixation of the white men.  The women in ‘Three Billboards’ are not given as much time, depth, complexity, or conflict as their male counterpoints.

 




 

4. The racial politics of the film are disturbing by the utter lack of attention.

One of the biggest criticisms leveled at ‘Three Billboards’ is the so-called “redemption” of Officer Dixon.  For the first two-thirds of the film, Dixon is depicted as one of if not the primary antagonist in the story.  He has a reputation for being racist and abusive toward others.  In one of the film’s most horrific scenes, Dixon is shown brutally attacking Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jone), the salesman who rents the billboards out to Mildred Hayes.  It is a gruesome scene shot in one long, uninterrupted shot.  

 

It is also the only scene where we truly get a glimpse of what Dixon is capable of and how he’s probably earned his reputation in the town. Dixon returns to the police station after being fired to collect his things and reads a letter Willoughby wrote him urging Dixon to resist anger and favor love.  And then Mildred firebombs the police station and Dixon suffers severe burns to his face and body.

 

He finds himself in the same hospital room as Red Welby, the salesman he assaulted and severely injured.  Dixon apologizes, Welby indicates a degree of forgiveness, and soon Dixon shifts to the key protagonist in the third act of the film.  

 

Now, I’m not sure how much Dixon finds redemption in the film, but the pivot the film makes to focus on his journey in the third act is just one more example of how tone-deaf McDonagh is.  Did he not realize how problematic people would find Dixon’s storyline, especially after the first two-thirds of the film is building up how despicable of a person he is?  And then to have the film demonstrate so much care, sensitivity, and empathy for him without addressing the racist reputation he carries is dismissive and insensitive to the audience.  

 

 

5. ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’s’ moral compass is “Injustice for All.”

What’s the point of the film?  What’s the central message or endgame for McDonagh?  For me, the film’s arc is to showcase “Injustice for All.”  Everybody in the film suffers.  Those who commit crimes get away with it.  Those who are decent still suffer due to injustice, and life goes on.

 

The women in 'Three Billboards' are not given as much time, depth, complexity, or conflict as their male counterpoints.




Mildred Haye’s daughter was brutally raped, murdered, and burned.  Her killer or killers are still at-large.  Charlie was a notorious wife-beater.  He even assaults Mildred in the film, long after their divorce.  Nothing happens to him.  He gets away with it.  Mildred’s friend and coworker played by Amanda Warren is arrested, and nothing happens. Officer Dixon has allegedly beaten people of color and the audience witnesses him relentlessly attack Red Welby.  He gets away with it.  

 

Yes, he loses his job as a police officer, but he doesn’t get arrested or put in jail, or face any legal consequences for his actions.  Charlie, Mildred’s ex-husband burns down the billboards.  Nothing happens to him.  Mildred herself assaults two teenagers at the local high school.  She gets away with it.  Then Mildred firebombs the police station and badly injures Office Dixon.  Nothing happens to her.  She gets away with it.

 

So a movie that burns with anger about injustice spends two hours showcasing all the characters getting away with every crime they commit.  I’m not sure if there is a creative message buried beneath the surface, but if there is, I missed the point.

 

Tell me I’m Wrong – Share Why You Like or Love ‘Three Billboards’

There really isn’t anything comedic or profound about ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.’   I’d love to hear those who have seen it why they believe it is a “good film.” I’d acknowledge that it has some good performances, and perhaps it thinks it’s saying something meaningful … but again, I do not think it is a “good film.”  Critique my critique and convince me why I am wrong.  Because I for the life of me do not understand this film.

29 Comments

  • Susan Burke
    January 21, 2018

    I agree 100% with your review.

  • J C Hicks
    January 24, 2018

    This review knocked on every door that my inner WTH tried to answer.
    Could have been a very good movie…

  • Bernadette Jordan
    January 24, 2018

    You nailed it. What a mess of a movie. I came out rattled and thought about it most of the evening and then decided I had been ripped off. Nobody wins. Ypur review forgot to mention the thoughtless and useless swipe at the Catholic church, gays, and even dwarfs, let alone corrupt and stupid policemen.. Honestly he tried to do it all and failed miserably. If this wins any Oscars I’ll be very disappointed. . Much preferred Fargo as a showcase for McDormand. She’s a force and underused.

  • Becky
    January 25, 2018

    I don’t agree with your review but I can totally understand why some people find this film problematic especially the Dixon character. I mean he basically was burned and disfigured and people still think he was not ‘punished’? So do you want all racist people die? Even if they may change some day? Even if they believe in the things they believe due to complex reasons? I absolutely hate the squad mentality in today’s political climate, you are either SJW or alt-right, nothing in between, I absolutely hate words like mansplaining, white males thrown around like some new dirty words. But hey, I totally understand where people are coming from, because as human beings, we choose sides, and when we see something that mixes our side-choosing, it will be labeled as problematic. I’m pretty sure somewhere someone probably thinks the director himself is a misogynistic white male who could possibly be racist just because his film did not CRUCIFY the white racist cop. Yeah, way to go 2018.

  • chut
    January 25, 2018

    The point of the movie is that anger dont lead to nothing. And this is the arc of Mildred. By the end of the movie she is more forgivin.

    • tom
      January 26, 2018

      yes but the point of this criticism is to say that it was so cack-handedly amused by itself that whatever themes it set out to deliver are mangled in what is an absolute car crash of a film. the only things to be salvaged from the wreckage are the performances vainly struggling against horrible dialogue, horrible plotting and then ultimately undone by horrible post-production; the hallmark-style incidental score is diabolical at every turn and the only scenes that were bearable were the ones that omitted it

  • Ms T
    January 26, 2018

    I think you are wayyy overthinking this movie. Being so hypercritical of the point of the film, the characters authenticity, and the political issues takes you completely past what makes it such a great movie. Perhaps it is necessary to grow up or live in the midwest to understand this town and its people. It is kind of like Tchaikovsky and Led Zeppelin. If you lean more towards the former, you probably think Zeppelin is garbage. You could list a dozen reasons why you think that and why their music offends you. Yet Zeppelin is the greatest rock band in history.
    This movie is great. Don’t over think it.

    • Nedward M.
      February 19, 2018

      Movies that are only great if you don’t think about them aren’t great.

  • Wayne Shelby
    January 27, 2018

    Spot on. The movie is confused. I felt cheated by its marketing campaign – I thought it would deal more with the emotional processing of the mother’s great loss (her daughter had only been dead 8 months). Instead it spewed gratuitous violence and horrifically timed comedy. I thought the casting for Harrelson’s wife’s character was very off. I would even argue that the film suffers from having too many underdeveloped characters that it could’ve done without. I found the generic tear jerky score annoying – the film was doing EVERYTHING it could to prove that it wasn’t tear jerky, in the process sacrificing whatever emotional truth it could have had for the sake of jokes. That said, it is beautifully shot, but gosh what a missed opportunity.

  • Too upset to name myself
    January 28, 2018

    I’m one of those people who has stopped watching entertainment because, other than a few TV shows, it is all atrocious.Nevertheless, I receive movies from SAG around Oscar time, and Sam Rockwell’s a good guy, so I decided to watch Billboard whatever it’s called with my girlfriend, not knowing anything other than that Sam was praised for his work. For so many reasons, I believe it was the single worst movie I have ever seen. THE worst. It tires me to even list them, because anyone who thinks this is not the laziest-written disgrace ever compiled…. it’s hard to even fathom. I’ve been looking for articles like this so I know I am alive and actually on the planet I was on before I turned on that piece of shit. Seeing the public response to it has made me physically ill to the point I don’t believe I will ever recover.

  • Grant
    January 29, 2018

    I couldn’t agree more. I went to this movie on a date, our 4th date, and tried pleasantly to have “overall enjoyed the film’ – she bought the tickets. I had suggested we see it based on the trailer and the reviews, it struck me (like everyone else apparently) as something akin to a Coen brothers film. There were so many cliches, terrible casting, and convoluted plot turns which someone aptly described as a 7th grader’s idea irony. Covering even the most bothersome choices would take too long, and some of the worst have already been addressed, but Penelope’s character (why?), the choking scene followed by hand-holding (what?), Willoughby’s constant cursing (let alone his wife’s casting), the Red beating all but ignored, and THEN occupying the same ER room as Dixon (WHAT?), and finally one of the more subtle (for the blind) choices was to employ the cheapest trick of all: in walks the possible rapist to Hazel’s shop, and then again bragging about a rape with gasoline in the bar booth behind Dixon, and after the fight, DNA grab, etc., he turns out not to be the one. Is this not the biggest coincidence of all time? And why trick the audience like this?

    Terrible movie. Terrible writing. The critical response, let alone the “general response, is very alarming.

  • janina
    January 29, 2018

    Yes, watched this film tonight with a friend and it was beyond bad. The writing, direction, convenient coincidences, slapstick misplaced humour, dead gags that fall awkwardly flat, cliched cartoon characters – awful and deadly dull too. One of the worst films I have seen in a long time!

  • Babel
    January 30, 2018

    Awful story,during a yeat of political, socioeconomic and racial divisiveness this country needs and deserves an uplifting film. Not one that wallows in sadism and unfair endings!

  • suzy
    February 2, 2018

    Can I just please say that you nailed EVERY SINGLE THING that I found wrong with the movie. Thank you. I find myself defending my point of view with everyone else who has bought the hype. Good job!

  • Anne Smith
    February 5, 2018

    Couldn’t agree more. About the worst film I’ve seen, and the first third dragged terribly. I was totally confused as to the purpose or message of the movie and had absolutely no sympathy for Mildred by the end. Pity because there was some excellent acting.

  • Amanda
    February 5, 2018

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I went to this movie with friends who LOVED it. What a misogynistic, homophobic racist piece of crap. So glad to read your review

  • Bill Randle
    February 6, 2018

    Thank you very much for telling the truth! It’s a terrible, awful, horrible, absurd, useless waste of time, and I’m pissed that I can never have back those two hours of my life. How could anyone with a right mind think there was anything redeemable about this piece of garbage. The fact that it’s up for any awards is disturbing. Really? We can’t do better than this? The state of movie-making in this nation is abysmal, and Three Billboards is emblematic of that problem!

  • Bastian Z
    February 6, 2018

    Interesting review indeed, you raise some good points that I need to further think about.
    Nevertheless, even after having read the article (with which I disagree in almost any aspect) twice I do not understand how you come to the conclusion that this is a ‘bad film’. All you basically say is that you hated it (which does not equal ‘it is bad film’, right?), and you substantiate your claim by stating that you did not like its characters or did not find it funny. (In science, that kind of evidence might be considered as rather personal/anecdotal instead of empirical. I know, of course, this is not about science and empirical evidence is hard to give but sometimes it might be necessary to explicitly take personal taste out of the equation). It feels like you wanted to dislike it from the beginning, and (I guess) you do not like any of Martin McDonagh’s works. I saw the movie three times (original version twice, German version once), and I love it. Translation actually helped to grasp the subtlety of the script. Good for me, I’m a fan of McDonagh’s very own kind of humor which I would not compare to the Coens or Tarantino (who I also admire). Sure, they are all in the ‘dark humor’ business but this is about it. So much for personal/anecdotal notes. When analyzing it more systematically, “Three Billboards” can be viewed as a parable on guilt in three acts (almost like a sequential portmanteau film … this is what you refer to as “three-person-play”, probably). Each act represents different stages of guilt (which are also mirrored in the three billboards, in some way), and the corresponding feelings were palpable and credible (to me, at least). As a former trauma researcher, I would claim that the three main characters and performances are absolutely spot-on and (luckily) not as over the top as traumatic grief has been portrayed many times before. Quite a few critics say that the film does not care enough about Mildred and doesn’t give her enough space. Why? How should Mildred own the story even more? The characters in general (even the tiny ones) are multi-dimensional, the good guy vs. bad guy dichotomy is dissolved. Some examples: Mildred cares about racism as soon as it gets in the way of investigating the murder of her daughter. Town saint Willoughby mentors/protects his racist employee and marginalizes his acts. And whether Nixon is a full-blown racist or somebody with a drinking and a general violence problem is nicely blurred. Just as it may be with ‘real people’ who come with tons of personality traits, characteristics, and experiences.

    I played through different interpretations and, as outlined above, there is one that is particularly sound to me: this film is about the dyad guilt/justice (i.e., guilt as the feeling that indicates injustice to most humans). Racism and revenge are just used as up to date correlates to convey the actual topic.
    Overall, I think it is a very relevant narrative that can tell us a lot about mankind. Of course, if you resent the kind of language and portrayal it uses, it is difficult to immerge. However, if you can live with it (or even enjoy it, as I do :)), you’ll be seeing a film that tackles a difficult topic with seriousness, intensity, passion, love, and which is quite rare, with humor and without exuberant partisanship.
    Maybe, this abstract gives you some new thoughts, as yours did the other way round.

    • Bill Randle
      February 6, 2018

      You say in regard to the review, “All you basically say is that you hated it.” Huh? To the contrary, Mr. Hetterly did an outstanding job of breaking down precisely what didn’t work and why. His review is well considered and cogent.

      For me, I found the movie to be trite, manipulative, and utterly ludicrous, Every movie seeks to bring the viewer around to its point of view, but I prefer a subtler approach, as opposed to being wrangled like cattle. I’m willing to be led but don’t push my head down and try to force me to drink.

      I admit I don’t really know the filmmaker’s work, but when I realized he’s a Brit I understood why the movie’s attempt at weighing in on racism was so poorly executed. He doesn’t get that racism in America isn’t like it was in the 50s and 60s, even in Small Town, Missouri. These days virtually everyone knows they have to play the game and racism has been relegated to subtext. Instead of acknowledging the reality and peril of veiled institutional racism, he wants us to believe we can spot the racists as easily as if they were wearing hoods and burning crosses.

      Bringing in the Morgan Freeman doppelganger as police chief was a pander to everyone’s desire to get even with the racist white cops. And, of course, the new black man on campus wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t call his lazy police officers crackerheads! That was when we were supposed to stand and cheer the righteous black man getting his comeuppance over racist white men. If only it were so easy…

      • Dixie J-Elder
        February 18, 2018

        McDonagh is NOT a “Brit.” He is Irish. There is a huge, vast difference between the two cultures.

  • Bill Randle
    February 6, 2018

    You say in regard to the review, “All you basically say is that you hated it.” Huh? To the contrary, Mr. Hetterly did an outstanding job of breaking down precisely what didn’t work and why. His review is well considered and cogent.

    For me, I found the movie to be trite, manipulative, and utterly ludicrous, Every movie seeks to bring the viewer around to its point of view, but I prefer a subtler approach, as opposed to being wrangled like cattle. I’m willing to be led but don’t push my head down and try to force me to drink.

    I admit I don’t really know the filmmaker’s work, but when I realized he’s a Brit I understood why the movie’s attempt at weighing in on racism was so poorly executed. He doesn’t get that racism in America isn’t like it was in the 50s and 60s, even in Small Town, Missouri. These days virtually everyone knows they have to play the game and racism has been relegated to subtext. Instead of acknowledging the reality and peril of veiled institutional racism, he wants us to believe we can spot the racists as easily as if they were wearing hoods and burning crosses.

    Bringing in the Morgan Freeman doppelganger as police chief was a pander to everyone’s desire to get even with the racist white cops. And, of course, the new black man on campus wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t call his lazy police officers crackerheads! That was when we were supposed to stand and cheer the righteous black man getting his comeuppance over racist white men. If only it were so easy…

  • Bastian Z
    February 6, 2018

    @Bill Randle: I beg to differ. As I tried to outline above, I find Mr. Hetterly‘s thoughts interesting and a good basis for further deliberation. What I do not see is an „outstanding job of breaking down precisely what didn‘t work and why“. Beside the fact that ‚outstanding job“ is the kind of superlative that always makes me skeptical, your post doesn‘t really address why exactly you consider it „cogent“. Rather, you bring up new points. So, what is the outstanding quality of this review? The most striking commonality of the review, some of the posts above, and yours seems to be the perception of the film as „bad“. The author closed with a call for people who don‘t share his views on the film, instead the comment section is an outlet for those who agree with him on hating it. No-one challenges his basic assumptions and approach. You call „breaking it down precisely“, for me it‘s five ways to say „I just didn‘t like it“. More concretely:

    @1. „ … for starters, it is either a grossly unfunny dark comedy, or a drama that undercuts its subject matter with misplaced attempts at humor.  The tone and execution of this film is its biggest offense.“
    Completely subjective. Some would agree, many wouldn‘t.

    @2. „McDonagh’s writing style just doesn’t click with me.“
    Subjective. I got it. It‘s not your cup of tea.

    @3.  „The problem is that she is not given much to do and is a part of an ensemble.“
    True in one reference frame. When taking another vantage point, her character and others are dosed just right.

    @4. „ … is dismissive and insensitive to the audience.“
    Well, part of the audience. Not the part I know.

    @5. „What’s the point of the film?  What’s the central message or endgame for McDonagh?  For me, the film’s arc is to showcase “Injustice for All.”“
    This is a crucial question but rather in the sense of a premise for the critic than in the sense of a critique in its own right. As I basically wrote above: sometimes, it is helpful to desist from a hypothesis and test new ones. And this film deserves to not only be tested against the premises „injustice for all“ or „weighing in on racism“. Before calling it „poorly executed“ one might wonder whether the film had other intentions. (By the way, there is still relevant overt racism in the U.S. which films address with good cause. Based on my premise, I’d say Three Billboards is not one of them.)

    • Nedward M.
      February 19, 2018

      Bastian — I’ve thought about the film a lot and I can’t decide whether I like the story. I didn’t like the film because thought it was terribly made — but that’s not worth getting into (I don’t have all day)… anyway, it’s much more interesting to analyze the story — You say the film is a “parable on guilt in three acts”. It’s interesting you say that because I didn’t really recognize any guilt at all. Like, there seemed to be an alarming lack of guilt. In fact, maybe that’s why I couldn’t relate.. McDormand’s character is fueled by pain, so she gets some sympathy, but she is unapologetically vicious. The source of Rockwell’s anger isn’t really explored, but he’s even more vicious — though I guess he does show a glimpse of remorse when confronted in the hospital by the guy he just nearly killed.. The police chief’s suicide has nothing to do with guilt (he explicitly said it was because of the cancer and had nothing to do with the billboards) and, while he’s empathetic toward McDormand’s character, he doesn’t seem to take personal responsibility for not capturing the rapist — no evidence — nothing he can do. Enlighten me if you can, because I have been unable to find a cohesive theme.

  • M
    February 13, 2018

    Thought I was the only one. I almost walked out but sat out the remaining 30m

    One of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. Unfortunately, if it wins one Oscar then 2018 was a sham

  • George
    February 17, 2018

    This review echoes a lot my thoughts about the movie. Implied here, but I’d make explicit, is one more thing. Too many plotlines that went nowhere. I fail to see how this was important commentary about the times we live in. That doesn’t always matter, but it was not funny or particularly dramatic, most of the time.

  • Chenry
    February 18, 2018

    I haven’t left a theater so irritated at a film for wasting my time since Eyes Wide Shut. This film is just plain bad. The acting is good, but the story is juvenile, the scenes are one dimensional shtick, and much of it is preposterously unbelivable.. People think this is edgy arty filmmaking? Just a bad movie.

  • Dixie J-Elder
    February 18, 2018

    Excellent review, thank you. I was having a hard time putting into words why this movie annoyed me so much.
    I am a big fan of McDonagh. I loved “In Bruges,” which was a multi-layered story and ultimately about redemption. I have read all of his plays and find them to be startlingly vivid and new in view point.
    However, “Three Billboards” was so utterly jarring. It felt like being held at gunpoint to watch people scream, curse, rant, rave, commit heinous acts of violence & have Utterly ZERO conclusion at the end.
    The acting was brilliant. I am in awe of McDormand and Rockwell. The film, however, wasted the talents of the other actors.
    And seriously, every 3rd word was F*** or C*** or C**K. I am a real person & in some situations, I have used the F*** word. But never, ever the C*** word. It was like being in the cafeteria, surrounded by 7th grade boys trying to get my attention by cursing.
    I thought some of the scenes were wonderful, like when Rockwell was on the phone & his mother, sound asleep, had a turtle crawling into her lap. That was absurd, strange, amusing.
    Well, sorry—this is all over the place but that’s how the movie was. Just leaping around, confusing. Leaving me wondering why.

  • mateo Sarna
    February 18, 2018

    I wanted to walk out after 20 minutes. I didn’t, but it just got worse. This movie was so tonaly inconsistent. It tried to be Fargo, or Blood Simple but failed. Some of the violence was too brutal and realistic to coexist with humor. McDormand’s act wore thin quickly. And Rockwell -was he a impish, pitiful loser or a tough and able sort? I winced many times at flat scenes, awkward moments, and terrible dialogue. I only saw 4 movies all year. I liked this movie even less than the Blade Runner sequel (loved the original). I disliked this movie even more than the Shape of Water -which I thoroughly disliked. I liked this movie much less than the Post, which is also overrated but par for the course of a Spielberg film. This seems to me to be a low period for cinema. These are not great films, even from a commercial, Hollywood perspective.

  • Andres
    February 19, 2018

    Cop throws a man out a fucking 2nd floor window and it’s like … nothin ! Business as usual. Come on !!! Fuckin stoopid movie. What a waste of space, time, talent and money.

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Who Else HATED 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'?