Quick Hit: Shifting shades of gray pour through each and every character.
It’s extremely rare to make a racist look good in a movie. It’s also extremely rare to portray suicide in an almost brave sense. Somehow, Three Billboards manages to accomplish both of these feats, along with a myriad of others in stunning and sometimes frightening fashion. That’s because everywhere you look in Billboards, you see gray – not as the color, but in the fact that no one is purely evil or purely good.
In this era of superhero films – which I’m not detracting at all – most of the heroes are purely good, and the villains are purely evil. Regardless of the “motivations” that each face, they are rarely as good as the pages of the colorful comics that have leapt from. That’s because movies have a hard time establishing all this in the short amount of time allotted to them, which is why some of the more complicated heroes have found success on the small screens (I’m looking at you Daredevil).
However, Billboards manages this feat, and does so adeptly. Each character, be it Frances McDormand’ s Mildred, Sam Rockwell’s Dixon, or Woody Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby – there’s no one that is completely free of blame. There’s no one whose motivations are completely clear, or completely white. Instead, we are given deep, complex characters that are fleshed out by extremely well-acted performances. It was surprising to me when I saw Billboards garner not just one Supporting Actor Nod for Rockwell, but two, including Harrelson as well. Though Dixon’s character will inevitably give Rockwell the win because of his more complete character arc, Chief Willoughby is the voice of reason and heart that provides some emotional heft throughout the film that is already laden with it.
Another part of the movie that is evident throughout is the raw undercurrent of humor that continues to make itself evident. Normally in a film like this, it could come across as tone-deaf or just against the tone of a movie that features such dramatic material. However, instead it provides a welcome respite to the audience from the horrors of true human characters and their interactions. I found myself laughing a number of times out loud in the theater, sometimes nearly with tears in my eyes. This is one of those movies that is well-founded with its script and extremely full of moments for each and every character to shine.
I haven’t touched on the variety of characters through the film besides the three “main”, but all the other actors and actresses do a great job. Peter Dinklage is a wonder as usual, Lucas Hedges is solid (and somehow continues to pop up in all these huge dramatic films), and Caleb Landry Jones hands in an extremely good performance to top it all off. There wasn’t a performer or moment in this film where I was disinterested, and that’s high praise indeed.
I really like this movie, and at the moment, it’s probably my front-runner for Best Picture. I’m giving the film an “A+” and a recommendation to everyone to go see it.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"