19 December, 2017

Regressive Rural Wretches Renege on Righteous Retribution

A Review of Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri is a shitty movie. That isn’t to say that it’s bad. It’s just, well, shitty. It’s shitty to everyone. Men, women, the disabled, white people, minorities (especially minorities). The only people it doesn’t throw some an elbow jab is Jewish people and I have a strange suspicion that’s because the scene is deleted. It's an ugly film with an ugly heart that manages to float on top of the water, like the pond scum that it is, only because basically everything else in the movie is pretty much top notch.

The performances in the film, from top to bottom, are great. There’s a lot of great turns from both its main characters and its bit players. Frances McDormand is perfect as a middle-aged and middle-class mother that seems to have been ground out by life like a glacier over a rockface. Sam Rockwell also does a pretty solid job doing his irritated moron routine which, hey, is always a lot of fun. It makes me look at all of these actors, and all of the talent behind the camera, and wonder why it isn’t better? Why don’t I care about these assholes? Why the fuck should I?

Oh. I think I just answered my own question.

While it is far from the vaunted and hallowed failure of Ridley Scott et al's The Counselor, Three Billboards fails to be more than the sum of its parts. It's a great cast and a respectable director with some fine films under his belt. It’s a letdown of that talent. It’s talent only highlights the movie’s flaws. It’s a maddening inconsistency and one that, more or less, sums up the real problems with this movie.

The problem with Three Billboards—rather, one of the problems, one of them being how it treats non-white people should be readhere—is that it is a movie about forgiveness with nobody worth forgiving. It’s a movie that wants to wrap up the denoument in people forgiving each other (never themselves, tough), except that in a very un-Catholic manner, it shoots right past the general concepts of contrition or redemption. It lands so far off of the mark that it actually completely forgets about mercy all together. Even worse, it seems to argue that a lack of mercy is what might actually bring people together in the end. Mostly, though, it argues that no matter what you do and no matter how shitty you are, we should kind of let you slide if you’re well meaning enough. Or something.

Not that every movie about revenge has to have a nice little button about everyone coming together—we’re talking about the medium in which Death Wish won’t stop being remade—it’s just
It just makes me wonder what the hell all that was about?

Clocking in at a little under two hours long (not that it feels like it), Three Billboards, like its title is an overlong journey to nowhere. While it does have some fun, retrograde humor and it revels in not being politically correct, none of its spite seems to add up to anything. It’s a mean movie that doesn’t have anger. It, like its main character, is listless and misguided and leaves you wondering if this was the best use of everybody’s time and energy.

My dad liked it, though. So that’s gotta be worth something.

James Kislingbury is a writer, a podcaster, and has never committed a felony. You can donate to his Patreon . You can buy the book he edited here (and on eBay). You can also follow him on Twitter. Also, if you well and truly give a shit hmu on my Paypal. Want to buy me a coffee? Get at my Ko-Fi. Have a happy holiday!