Do you ever stroll into a movie theater with certain expectations? Of course! We ALL do. One practice I have learned to adopt, more recently, is to know as little about a film as possible. You see, those who release the movies we watch know how to serve up what they want us to accept. Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of false advertising. The way around such an accusation is to simply admit to “bending,” but not “breaking,” when it comes to the rules and practices and what not, but I digress.

When I first came across a viewable television spot for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” I believed it MUST be a Cohen Brothers project. There were at least two primary actors in the film who have appeared in one or more of their pictures. Specifically, those actors are Frances McDormand (“Hail, Caesar!”) and Woody Harrelson (“Now You See Me 2”). The look and feel of the movie is darkly-complected, but unashamedly funny, as well. Any familiarity with a Cohen Brothers film should cause a viewer to recognize the similarity of that style with THIS one. However, there seems to be no actual relationship.

This particular film was directed, written and, partially, produced by one Martin McDonagh (“Seven Psychopaths”). Although he has made several movies throughout the 21st century, the one most seem to be familiar with is 2008’s “In Bruges.” Upon further examination of McDonagh’s work, I noticed an overlap in his list of actors who have participated in prior works, plus the current one. THOSE include: Sam Rockwell (“Digging for Fire”), Harrelson and Abbie Cornish (“RoboCop”). Obviously, there might be others, but I digress, once more.

McDormand is Mildred Hayes. She speaks her mind, whether it be the truth or a well-thought-out lie and she is passionate about her family or anything she has love for. Harrelson is Sheriff Bill Willoughby. He and Hayes go head-to-head from the very start of the film, but there is little to no dislike or actual disrespect between the two of them. You see, when something bad happens to any of us, at some point we seek justice or reparations and life just is not always fair, the way we believe it ought to be.

Rockwell is Officer Jason Dixon. He is a loose cannon and an offensive communicator, for the most part, but he also represents the most dynamic character in the story, which makes him the most intriguing, from my perspective. Cornish is Anne Willoughby. Although her time in the movie is limited, she is still effective as a charming, outspoken and emotionally-invested wife. Tragedy strikes, not just prior to the start of the film, but also in the midst and she gets hit as hard as nearly anyone else. By the way, I was not the only one in the audience who was confused by her accent, either.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) as James. Like Cornish, his screen time was limited, but he is equally effective as something of the obligatory short man in a McDonagh movie. Sandy Martin (“Big Love”) as Dixon’s Mother joined in the fun, too, as yet another offensive character, although still quite humorous. I remember announcing to my friend that she was the lady from “Napoleon Dynamite,” as if he would not have recognized her.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has been well-hyped thus far and THIS time it is worth the hype. While I took minor issue with some of the outlandish claims about people in authority, it was easy to overlook because no one in the movie is free from criticism for who they are and what they do. Frances McDormand has graced the stage for her acting performances before, but I would not be hurt if she did so again, for 2017. One particular scene, early on in the film, had me ready to give her the Oscar fro a second time, but only time will tell. As I said, Sam Rockwell portrayed the most interesting character in the movie, but there were really no bad performances. Woody Harrelson displayed some nice variety, throughout and the sadness surrounding his character was lessened by the timing of specific circumstances. THIS indicates great writing, plus the formula of the entire story. Even when I could see what was coming next, I could still appreciate the way it all unfolded. You will not be disappointed AND you will not guess everything before it happens, either.

The ending was slightly ambiguous, but tied together well enough to be acceptable, overall. There are some other actors who probably deserve a mention here, but the list is so great for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” that I simply cannot make room right now. I am prepared to leave with THIS statement: it is the best movie of 2017.

Director: Martin McDonagh
Producers: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin and McDonagh
Screenwriter: McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes and Peter Dinklage
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release: November 17th, 2017

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