Why ���Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri��� Is So Controversial

I’m endlessly fascinated by “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” My immediate reaction to most of the characters should be unadulterated hate, but the way they are portrayed makes them incredibly difficult to despise.

When movies begin, hate is not the first emotional leap many writers and director want us to take. However, Martin McDonagh is an unorthodox and brilliant writer/director, so he does experiment with that emotion. For instance, Sam Rockwell’s character, Dixon, is an accused racist cop with a temper. He’s easy to hate because he’s clearly unfit for this line of work. On the other hand, Mildred, Frances McDormand’s character, is a fiery mother who doesn’t let anything stand in her way, not even the police. You can’t honestly blame the woman when she’s trying to get to the bottom of her daughter’s rape and murder — until she might just take it too far.

Dixon is an easy target for vitriol because he’s a racist. Mildred is more complex. Originally, I trust that she’s making bold but appropriate moves to get the case solved. The film begins with her purchasing three billboards, so she can post three messages: “Raped While Dying,” “And Still No Arrests,” and “How Come, Chief Willoughby.” These billboards are all in reference to her daughter’s horrific death. Unfortunately, the billboards aren’t enough to get the case solved, and the whole town is turning against her. This dismissal of Mildred’s method of communication with the police leads to a fiery end for the billboards.  

Believing Dixon is responsible for the destruction of property, she resorts to more dangerous methods. At one point in the film, she throws Molotov cocktails at the police station. This indefensible act as well as others shakes my moral code to its core.

However, the reason that my code isn’t entirely broken is McDormand’s performance. She is completely brilliant. The actress, best known for her role in “Fargo,” is tough as nails and honest in this film. She’s not one to mince words, and if someone gets in her way, she’s not afraid to tell them what’s what.

For instance, when she’s visiting the dentist because of a toothache, the dentist lets her know how disrespectful those billboards are to Chief Willoughby. She doesn’t care. The Willoughby supporter then takes out his drill without giving Mildred any novocaine, and knowing the pain she’s about to experience, she gives it to the tooth enthusiast tenfold by sticking the drill in his thumbnail.

I would rather watch violence in a Tarantino movie a hundred times over before witnessing that drilled thumb again. It still makes me tingle just thinking about it.

Returning to Dixon, he’s possibly even more complicated than Mildred because there is literally nothing that should be likable about him for most of the movie. He’s simply a bad guy. But I can’t help but look at him as a sympathetic character because Rockwell is playing the role.

Rockwell is an actor you root for. He’s got spunky charm to him, a joy in his voice when he delivers lines, and he looks like a man who enjoys being an actor. I think many are upset about Rockwell’s portrayal because it feels wrong to sympathize with a violent racist.

However, I think McDonagh is proving a point with these characters. It almost feels like he’s creating a personal challenge for himself as a writer and director: Can I write and direct a film with characters that perform increasingly more despicable acts and convince the audience to sympathize with them by the end?

In the opinion of this reviewer, McDonagh succeeds with this experiment. Mildred and Dixon are equally intriguing characters because they are exceptionally flawed, but undoubtedly sympathetic.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is absolutely controversial, but that’s the point. Either appreciate it for its breaks from conventional filmmaking or don’t. I doubt Martin McDonagh cares much.

Source : http://www.hastingstribune.com/opinion/three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri-controversial/article_4dbf365e-10e1-11e8-8181-cbd0eba3e215.html

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