There are many ways in which people can deal with grief. For instance, if you are outbid on an eBay auction at the last second, a common reaction is to send a furious, hand-written letter to your internet provider and complain about your shit broadband. Or if you a receive a pizza with the wrong toppings, it is perfectly reasonable to peel off all the cheese and lick the purée off the base like a depressed cat. If your daughter has been brutally murdered, however, you may wish to erect a series of colourful posters to cheer yourself up.
That is exactly what Frances McDormand does in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, an excellent film that has been described as a ‘firecracker’ and a ‘rollercoaster of high-octane, carnival explosiveness’ – an assortment of words that presumably means something.
McDormand’s character, Mildred Hayes, has elected to use three billboards outside her hometown to annoy the local police force, who have yet to arrest her daughter’s killer. The first billboard features an image of a cartoon fisherman winking, while suggestively dangling a worm below his belt; the second is a poster for a Melissa McCarthy film called “Falling Over: Chapter 4”; and the last is an advert for a set of reasonably priced drawers from IKEA.
These billboards particularly perturb the police chief, played by loveable slaphead Woody Harrelson. He knows that if people from within the community catch a glimpse of these posters, they may become aware of the outside world and start demanding larger imports of things like hay. His only option is to increase his efforts to solve the murder case and reassure the people of Ebbing that Melissa McCarthy can’t hurt them.
It takes a steamroller of a performance from Frances McDormand to really ignite this black snake firework of a film – or something else a critic might say. She barrels through the streets of her hometown, sleeves rolled up and nutting any cunt who gets in her way.
As tensions between her and the police rose, my sphincter tightened so much that I was actually elevated several centimetres on my chair, giving me the perfect vantage point to watch her stove in her dentist’s teeth – a brilliantly crafted piece of irony from director Martin McDonagh.
But it’s not just her performance that’s responsible for all those superlatives on the posters you’ve been forced to look at on the underground. Sam Rockwell, who plays a racist, homophobic cop living with his mum, is also worthy of a golden bloke.
He starts out as a grasping simpleton with an overt fondness for his baton, but the film then takes his character in some unexpected directions. Rockwell handles the transition with such conviction that it actually earned him a place on the film’s poster at my local train station. It was positioned next to an advert for a chest of MALMO drawers, retailing at £49.99, which I thought was quite reasonable.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is in UK cinemas January 12.