I made the mistake of reading a scathing review of 3 Billboards before penning my own response and it embarrassed me a little because all the good points I had noted were the same points the professional reviewer shot down. It also made me question whether my categories of “the good, the bad, the verdict” were appropriately titled.
The truth is I didn’t find much “bad” with this movie, other than few points I’ve highlighted below. It made me wonder if I’m watching the same movies or watching movies the way other people do. This film had already won awards and the hearts of many moviegoers by the time I watched it, so I’m certainly not alone, but it is in my nature to doubt myself when opposition is apparent.
Even still, this is what I took away from the film:
Good (or what I liked):
I really liked it! The concept is impressive and original: a grieving mother of a murdered daughter spurs the police into action with a loaded message displayed on three consecutive billboards in town.
Within 15 minutes I decided it was exactly the kind of story/screenplay I would like to write someday. I fancied the dialogue and how it was used from different characters. When I imagined lines being swapped or roles reversed, it didn’t work as well and so I knew the characters were individual and true to themselves. I even liked the foul language, though not all, it was appropriate for the people and location. There were a lot of subplots, (I can count 10 off the top of my head), which sounds dizzying when thought of out of context but within the film felt easy and natural.
The movie was very funny without the characters participating. It doesn’t sound appropriate given the plot, but each moment was for the audience as the subject matter was too dark for on-screen giggles.
I liked the use of flashbacks – it wasn’t cheesy or unnecessary, it totally blended as part of the story and gave context to both the character and audience. Through them you felt the absence of certain characters and the pain of others. I liked the way it ended. I won’t spoil it for you, but it ended the way I decided it should about halfway into the movie.
I totally like that I’m seeing more of Lucas Hedges. So far, I’ve caught him in 3 Billboards, Lady Bird and Manchester by the Sea (which I was unable to finish because it was too dry for me). I think he’ll have a promising career!
Bad (or what I disliked):
The blatant racism was, well, blatant. And over the top in meaningless way. I felt that certain words and ideas were said just for the sake of saying them, for shock value, but then later used to condemn the previous action. I’m not sure, I was confused and it didn’t sit right with me until later in the movie when I made allowances for the setting it takes place in – middle America. But is this how America should be portrayed? Especially now? Gosh, I don’t agree with censorship, but I didn’t agree here either. OH, then a black guy shows up and things become touchy, but not spoken of or resolved. It was weird.
Further, there were NO legal consequences to the clearly fragrant and illegal things people did. This really bothered me and took me away from the film. I found myself counting the number of ignored offenses from assault to domestic abuse to vandalism to arson to, sheesh, you name it.
Lastly, I was concerned where all the money for the billboards came from, though it was somewhat later explained, I still have my doubts. (Can you tell I like my films somewhat grounded in reality?)
Verdict (or my personal recommendation):
See it! The story was a metaphor for life: an uphill battle and finding happiness on your own terms. It’s dark enough for a good drama piece and light enough to watch at any time of day. I watch movies alone but I would have enjoyed sharing this with a friend.