Fox Searchlight is billing its Martin McDonagh-directed feature, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as a “darkly comedic drama,” a description that seems only natural considering Fargo Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand stars in this film almost certain to draw Oscar attention, too. McDormand plays a grieving mother, Mildred Hayes, whose daughter Angela was raped and savagely murdered by an as yet undiscovered killer.
It’s seven months after the crime as the movie opens, and Mildred is furious with local authorities for what she feels is a lack of action in hunting down her daughter’s killer. Finally, after reaching a level of frustration that pushes her over the edge, she decides to take matters into her own hands and force the local police chief to step up his resolve to see justice done. She’ll literally shame him into satisfying her that he’s taking the matter as seriously as she thinks is warranted.
Mildred hatches a strategy intended to get the police chief’s attention when she spots three tattered billboards just outside the small town of Ebbing where the film is set. The beyond angry mother marches into the office of the local ad shop responsible for the billboard’s rentals and plops down the money to make her scheme happen: She’ll have the billboards read just enough information directed at the police — and in particular, Woody Harrelson’s Police Chief Willoughby, to get them to take her seriously. But that’s only the beginning of Mildred’s deranged efforts. She wreaks havoc in a series of violent incidents certain to mine the black humor that will cause moviegoers to laugh in spite of themselves and the film’s serious subject matter.
McDormand’s not quite over-the-top performance is the stuff Oscar nominations are made of. And the film is sure to garner as much notice, itself. Critics have been nearly unanimous in their praise for this one.
Joining McDorman and Harrelson in the cast are Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges and Abbie Cornish, among others. McDonagh directs from his own script.
RottenTomatoes gives Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a score of 95. The film runs 1 hour 55 minutes and is rated R.