Writer/director Martin McDonagh has been absent from the film scene since his 2012 black comedy Seven Psychopaths, the follow-up to his feature film debut In Bruges, a movie for which he won critical accolades and a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination. This year, McDonagh will finally release his third feature and it’s set in a place you wouldn’t automatically associate with the director; a man who before his filmmaking days, was acclaimed as a writer of plays set in the UK and Ireland.
After setting movies in Bruges and Hollywood, where should a guy like Martin McDonagh go next? The middle of the American Heartland, of course. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is set in a tiny fictional American community, but as the movie’s new red band trailer shows, things can get just as crazy there as anywhere else provided Martin McDonagh is the man doing the writing.
Three Billboards stars Frances McDormand as the grieving parent of a murdered child who, fed up with the laziness and ineptitude of the local police force, takes matters into her own hands by erecting a trio of signs leading into town that call out the police chief played by Woody Harrselson (who has that other high-profile movie coming out next year). This sounds like the set-up for a powerful drama, but as the trailer from Fox Searchlight shows, the tone of Three Billboards is a long way from Oscar-bait tearjerking. McDormand’s character, far from being paralyzed with grief, is willing to go to insane and hilarious lengths to make sure her murdered child’s case is not forgotten.
The trailer sells Three Billboards largely as a showdown between McDormand, a fiery character 180 degrees removed from the passive-aggressive reserve of Fargo‘s Marge Gunderson, and Harrelson whose character comes off as a seemingly reasonable guy who just wants to calm the situation down. McDormand’s campaign against Harrelson and the town cops leads her to, at one point, kick some children right outside a school, and at another point stab a dentist with his own drill. This is Billy Bob Thornton territory, and McDormand looks right in her element melting down, firing off obscene rants and physically assaulting people.
The humor is decidedly profane and hilarious as you would expect from McDonagh, whose Hollywood satire Seven Psychopaths was filled with memorable one-liners. In addition to McDormand and Harrelson, the trailer gives us a glimpse of cast members Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes and Abbie Cornish. If nothing else, Three Billboards boasts one of the most talented ensembles in recent memory.
How do you make a broadly farcical, almost Bad Santa-like comedy out of the story of a grieving mother’s determination to get justice for her dead child? Leave it to the guy who created In Bruges, one of the more off-beat, strange and strangely affecting films of recent years. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri does not yet have an official release date, but it looks like something that’s definitely worth getting excited about.
Source: Fox Searchlight