I wrote two days ago about how the trailer for this film was so good that it made me want to see it. So I did yesterday. It is definitely a film worth watching though a little different from what I was expecting. The trailer seemed to indicate that it was a comedy, and though there are many very funny moments in it, it is at heart a serious film dealing with important issues.
The main plot deals with Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) who is frustrated by the fact that the man who raped and killed her daughter is still on the loose after seven months. In an effort to prod the police to take action, she pays for three billboards that chastise the local police and its chief William Willoughby by name. The film deals with the consequences that ensue from that action.
The film makes sharp comments about various issues (such police brutality, racism, homophobia, and pedophilia in the Catholic church) but the characters themselves are complex, not caricatures, neither wholly good nor bad. Hayes is a crusader for justice but is not a particularly nice person. Willoughby is the chief of a police force that is riddled with officers who are racist, homophobic, care little for civil rights, and violate them with impunity, but he himself is portrayed sympathetically.
The film has some plot twists that took me by surprise but they were plausible, not the kind that are thrown in by filmmakers because they feel the need to wake up the audience. The film also does not try to tie up all the loose ends in a neat bow but the ending is satisfying nonetheless.
The film benefits greatly from the fine performances of its main characters. McDormand has the most expressive face of any actor that I can recall and Harrelson is his usual understated self. Other members of the cast that put in good performances are Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, and John Hawke.
One thing that bothered me was the role played by Dinklage. He is a fine actor who happens to be a dwarf. I would like to see him in a role where his physical stature was not a focal point. This would have been a good film for that because he plays a long-term resident of a small town who would be well known to the people there, and his stature would have simply faded into the background and people would deal with him as they would anyone else. But much of the dialogue in his scenes deals with his height, and that is a pity. I know that he has a major role in the hit series Game of Thrones. I have not seen it and hope that he is portrayed there just like any other character.
Here is the trailer again.
Wow, you really have a low opinion of Hollywood, don’t you?
That sounds like a potential comedy to you? Dark, dude.
They had me at Harrelson. Onto the list it goes.
You have an abiding faith in people. Especially people in small towns. I live in one of those, and while people might be willing to drop such a characteristic from their daily tongue in good times, a lot of people wouldn’t, and people turn into right asses under stress. The majority of them don’t require stress for that. I still think the best film with people ending up treating Dinklage’s character the same as anyone else is The Station Agent.
Mano Singham says
Yes, it seemed like a dark comedy, a genre that is quite popular. It is true that the background to the story is a rape-muder but that takes place in the past before the film begins and the film is about the mother’s battle with the police. And it is very funny in places.
Mano Singham says
I saw The Station Agent a long time ago and really liked it. It was the first time I had seen Dinklage and his portrayal was very nuanced and sensitive.
Mano, Dinklage played the antagonist Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and his height wasn’t mentioned once. He was just an evil industrialist.
Mano Singham says
I am glad to hear it. Do you know how he is he portrayed in Game of Thrones?
The character he plays in GoT is Lord Tyrion Lannister, canonically a dwarf who has been treated with prejudice all his life (even though he is a member of the most powerful family in the kingdom). In the books he is called a Halfman … and worse … Tyrion’s height is constantly an issue.
Tyrion is the most intelligent person in their world, surviving with humor and cunning. In spite of the bitterness about how his family and others have treated him, he is quite virtuous (at least, virtuous as would be defined in the GoT realm).
Peter Dinklage turned out to be the perfect actor to portray the complicated Tyrion. Dinklage brings all the nuance and development for the character which the author envisioned.
I think you would like the show.
Good point re: Trask. He was entirely portrayed as a well-meaning billionaire genius weapons-designer whose designs have unintended consequences… to the point that the character’s name is an anagram of Stark. The exact same lines could have been read by Robert Downey Jr. It was great.
(well meaning in his own mind, that is. Self-obsessed and clueless, but hey, isn’t that covered by “billionaire”?)
Mano Singham says
Thanks for the information about Dinklage’s character in Game of Thrones. At least in that show, his stature seems to play an important role in understanding the motivation of the character. What I dislike is when that angle is not really necessary but brought in anyway.
I think I may like the show except for the fact that I have heard that it is pretty violent, and that turns me off. I also tend to avoid continuing series that seem to go on and on without end.