Usually, by this time of the year, I will have seen at least one movie that I really love and can fully stand behind in the Oscar race. And I don’t know if I’m just more apathetic this year or something, but most of the ‘Oscar’ movies I’ve seen so far seem ‘good, but overrated.’ I haven’t yet found that gem I can consider a favorite.
At least, that’s what I would have said a few days ago, before seeing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Now, I am not terribly familiar with the work of Martin McDonagh. I studied one of his plays back in my high school drama class, but I haven’t seen In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths. Clearly, that needs to change.
It’s hard for me to sum up what exactly makes the film work for me, beyond the traditional answer of ‘good story, well told.’ The story focuses on a bunch of unlikable characters and a bunch of dark humor. Usually, these kinds of things would be a turn off for me. But there’s just something about McDonagh’s writing and the overall presentation of the piece that makes the film’s world ring very true.
Actually, I think much of the credit is owed to the terrific ensemble. Frances McDormand is absolutely mesmerizing as a grieving mother who remains a relatable character even as she does genuinely bad things. In my opinion, she surpasses her Oscar-winning turn in Fargo.
We also have brilliant supporting turns by Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and many others. Expect this film to be a very serious contender in every ‘Best Ensemble’ race.
The film is uncompromising in its depictions of life’s cruelty, but it gives us just enough hope for us to cling onto. And, perhaps paradoxically, it also manages to be completely hilarious. It’s a film that shouldn’t work and yet, it has all the makings of a future classic.
Make no mistake, this movie IS the Best Picture frontrunner going into Oscar season.
**** out of ****