Martin McDonagh is an acquired taste for sure.
I am no expert, but his stories are nearly always filled with characters that inhabit the greyest zone of moral ambiguity, and though his stories touch upon the most taboo of topics, there is an alarming lightness in his tone. McDonagh’s writing is snappy, fast, and laced with profanity. And his hallmarks are in evidence yet again in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
As both writer and director, McDonagh revels in his pitch-black piece of Americana; Three Billboards being a brilliant showcase of the kind of dark undercurrent which can run through even the smallest and most wayward of American towns. As such, when the film begins, all of the central characters are just out of reach of being likable, but we are given little choice but to follow them and, miraculously, by the end of the film, the hard shell which each had been encased in slowly begins to crack. Three Billboards is built on these performances – Frances McDormand rightfully getting Oscar buzz already for her performance as a vengeful, grieving mother. McDormand is captivating all the way through, and we feel her pain in each second that she is on screen. Sam Rockwell matches her note-for-note, however, and his redemptive arc – the much-needed light in the bleak world created by the movie – is beautifully played.
Narratively, there isn’t much to Three Billboards – in fact the story almost seems to lose its way by its second act – but by the finale, the end product has certainly justified the sum of its parts. Like the other Martin McDonagh work to which I have been exposed, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri gets inside your head and lingers long after the final images have faded from the screen.
Yes, an acquired taste, but one which urges you to sample it again.