Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ★★★

Everything Martin McDonagh is going for here is admirable, but too much of it doesn't work for this film to truly resonate. I'm a fan of McDonagh because he seems to realize the value in absurdity, in taking a look at people who have been through immense hardship and doubling down on the nonsensical nature of the world they live in. There's a salient position in certain portrayals of trauma for pitch black comedy, and this approach can prove very fruitful for making striking observations about society. Three Billboards works occasionally in this realm, but people aren't wrong when they point out that there are tonal issues throughout. The more specific problem, however, is that of the tonal issues as they relate to the character development. It's one issue if scenes seem to make jarring turns within themselves--that can serve a very useful purpose--but tonal inconsistencies become more glaring when transitions within character arcs are weak. That's the case here with Rockwell's character arc in the latter half, a slight misfire of an attempt to bring him and McDormand together under the umbrella of redemption. The same goes for Rockwell and Caleb Landry Jones' character, a dynamic that is unfortunately never fully developed. 

Overall, it's still a bitingly funny film, and the main characters themselves are well sketched even if the character arcs could use some work. The legendary McDormand and criminally underappreciated Rockwell are both incredible, the former giving a performance driven by the power of her facial expressions and the latter playing off awkwardness and viciousness at the same time. There's a very palpable sense of anger among the characters in this film, and that's where McDonagh really delves into a key aspect of the human condition. Anger is okay. Anger is normal. Anger can drive us. Anger has consequences. Getting a happy conclusion to your problems seems nice, but life is all about unfinished business, about all the awful things just as much as it's about the good. Morality is a tricky thing, and people may not be what they seem on the surface. It's hard to really know what you're doing before you do it. You just have to figure it out on the way there. 


Better than The Space Between Us? Yeah.

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