Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ★★½

I think that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has its heart in the right place, but it fails to read the room in a really crippling way. It's well shot, tightly written, and superbly acted, but the entire thing hinges on appropriating the outrage over police violence against black people and using it to propel white stories forward. That isn't any projecting or interpretation on my part, it's in the text. Mildred (Frances McDormand) does it on a TV camera within the context of the film, which is not commented on, even by the peripheral black characters with maybe ten lines between them.

Which could be forgivable, if the violent cop in question weren't given an entirely unearned redemption arc as a "twist" about halfway through the movie. Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) does great work, and that's probably the reason why so many people are loving this movie. For me, he can't overcome his establishment as an irredeemably shitty, abusive, racist/sexist/ableist/homophobic cop without some significant work, which is this film, is receiving a letter telling him that he's a good guy deep down despite all evidence to the contrary, and then facing the bare minimum of consequences for his horrific actions. He should be in jail, he merely loses his job instead, and only then does he start actually doing his job. In no way does this constitute a redemption or make him someone that you can root for, but the film really, really wants you to. It's not enough. It reads as tone deaf, at best, and embarrassing #notallcops propaganda, at worst.

It's watchable and even thrilling at its best, Frances McDormand successfully wrangles this thing across the finish line and Lucas Hedges elevates everything he's in, no matter how small the role, but the emotional climax of the film hinges on this humiliating misfire that deflates the whole thing.

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