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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson | Martin McDonagh directs

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Screen Daily broke the Venice embargo and gave it a mixed review. It's been taken down, but Awards Watch users got snippets before it was removed:




Frances McDormand plays a working-class woman who thirsts for justice for her murdered daughter in Michael McDonagh’s quixotic, loose Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Misouri – a film with the best title and trailer of the year, but which fails to fully deliver on the promise of either.


Anchored by a blistering, foul-mouthed performance from McDormand, McDonagh’s daringly-structured dark comedy is rich and layered and often laugh-out-loud funny but trips over its constant tonal shifts. The writer again takes a writerly approach to directing, front-loading his narrative into the first 20 minutes, and layering on long monologues. The early, well-signposted death of a central character has clanging reverberations for what’s left of the plot, which McDonagh can’t fully quiet.


A strong cast which also includes Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and Caleb Landry Jones pulls hard together, straining for the piece to cohere, although Australian actress Abbie Cornish is palpably ill at ease. The promise of a Coen Brothers-style black comedy from the man behind In Bruges should still be commercial catnip for distributor Fox Searchlight on US release in November after a festival run, however.


McDonagh never really answers essential questions about his piece, pre-occupied with the tease of the structural challenge he has set himself. His characters’ motivations are consistently elusive: Tarantino-ish dialogue may aim to shock with casual racism and vulgarity, but Ebbing, Missouri never fully comes alive outside its writer’s mind as its characters kneel to his will. Punchy sequences bounce off each other as McDonagh’s well-written pages often struggle to slot together. When it’s funny, though, Ebbing really blisters, and many viewers will find the laughter carries them over its problems.


The fact he simply can’t find the keys to the Coen Brothers safe is only highlighted every time Frances McDormand shows us yet again and so convincingly what she’s made of; her character never makes as much sense as the actress’s perfect delivery.


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