There are comic moments when you can catch yourself laughing and then checking to see if you’re the only one. Sometimes it’s because of the company you’re in. Mostly it’s because you’re pretty sure part of the joke is the teller knows you shouldn’t laugh.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is like that. Only it’s not just one laugh out load moment. When a hapless cop launches himself through a firebombed facade and catches alight; when the heroine kicks a teenage student in the altogethers; when the dentist, intent on inflicting pain through anaesthetised drilling had his drill turned back on himself and finds his thumb perforated. I admit it, I winced but I also laughed.
But don’t get the idea this is some sort of sicko movie. Far from it. It is touching, hard hitting, poignant, redemptive, clever, thoughtful and, yes, very funny.
The plot isn’t complex; Frances McDormand’s character has lost her daughter to rape and murder and no one has been arrested. She pays for signs to go up on the eponymous three billboards to pressure the police chief (a wonderful Woody Harleson). He in turn isn’t a bad guy. A smidgen inclined to turn a blind eye to cop violence, a touch rascist and probably homophobic, but, hey, this is Missouri and that passes for voting democrat.
The interplay between the two main characters is beautifully balanced and nuanced. They are all hopelessly flawed but they are all just trying their best in trying circumstances.
And the hapless cop? Sam Rockwell plays him straight and he is comic gold with an unexpected redemptive toughness at the end.
This is a film that doesn’t end, not really. It leaves you thinking and wondering, and yes, hoping. Despite the invasive gloom of much of the story line you still allow that little candle to keep burning.
If I’ve seen one film in the last while I’d heartily recommend, it’s this puppy. Go wag a tail.