Oh man, this was a great movie. Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths) has a gift for crafting well-balanced films. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was the perfect blend of dark humor and intense drama. Plus, a veteran cast (Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Clarke Peters and Peter Dinklage) at the core. Actress McDormand might have even surpass her all-star performance from Fargo.
Could you tell I loved this movie? Three Billboards is a whirlwind of a movie compressed together with thought-provoking themes. It’s an unforgettable film for a crucial time in our history. McDonagh’s style and direction has never been better; has he emulates moments with anger and rage blended smoothly with comedy and relief. Our story follows a mother named Mildred (an electrifying McDormand) who personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder as they have failed to catch the culprit. Set in a rural fictional town of Missouri, Three Billboards captures the complex life of a small-town world.
Mildred decides to take matters into her own hands and rents three abandoned billboards near her home at $5,000 per month, which in sequence read: "Raped while dying", "Still no arrests?", and "How come, Chief Willoughby?" Well, that should rustle some feathers. The police don’t like this ridicule, especially Chief Willoughby (the never better Harrelson). Some of the townspeople are upset over the billboard’s content and demand that it be taken down, as do the police. But Mildred’s motive starts holding them accountable for their slack and clouded vision. Mildred proclaims to Chief Willoughby that the cops are "too busy torturing black folks." In Mildred’s defense, it’s not her fault that the local police force feels embarrassed by these billboards, it’s their job to go out and find who committed this horrendous crime.
Which leads us to momma's-boy deputy Dixon, played by the volcanic Sam Rockwell. Dixon’s racist anger will get your blood boiling and at other times send you applauding at his humane struggle in life. Dixon’s character is a love/hate relationship throughout the movie. In one scene Rockwell’s character is wildly funny and in other’s he’s fueling with rage and no moral consequence. Rockwell’s performance steals the show and is another shining moment in his career. Fingers crossed that Rockwell gets an Oscar nom for his supporting role in this darkly superb masterpiece. Which leads us back to this rousing narrative, Three Billboards is a complex film full of hard-hitting ideas and moral consequences.
Mildred will do anything to get justice for her beloved daughter even if that’s breaking the law herself. The film holds as an accountability for struggles and griefs in everyday life. McDonagh’s raw emotion is well-balanced by dark humor to help guide the viewers to the resolution of this story. Three Billboards constantly keeps us off balance, but never loses its own. This could only be done in the hands of master, McDonagh’s script is a tour de force in writing. Three Billboards is a wrenching tragedy filled with shocking moments and wild rides. It stands as one of the top films of 2017. It deserves all five stars from me and will go down as one of my favorite films from this year. Like adding salt to an open wound, this film rubs you raw. In the end, Three Billboards is revelation that’s fierce and not afraid to show its teeth.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is rated R (Restricted). For violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.
Review: Lady Bird
Sheer perfection. Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s (actress in Frances Ha and Mistress America) coming-of-age directorial debut is a marvelous gem, while actress Saoirse Ronan has never been better. Lady Bird delivers a fresh insight on the pains of adolescence. Oscar season is upon us.
This is a must see movie of the holiday season; Lady Bird is full of heart as it reaches for the stars. Gerwig writes a poetic message on the growing pains of youth and finding yourself. If you think this is your traditional coming-of-age story, then think again because Lady Bird is an original, fresh and energetic take on the genre. On November 27, 2017, the film became the most-reviewed film ever to remain at a 100% in Rotten Tomatoes history with 164 positive reviews, beating the previous record holder Toy Story 2, which has 163 positive reviews. It stayed at a 100% until 195 registered reviews. Currently, sitting at a 99% out of 199 reviews, minus the one tainted review from critic Cole Smithey, Lady Bird proves that it is the perfect little movie with a big heart.
It screams watch me in every way, from the writing to the directing, Gerwig’s gem is a triumph. Plus, actress Ronan has never been better on screen. She blew me away with her performance and, in my opinion, I think she even topped her performance from 2015’s Brooklyn. Fingers crossed that she can earn herself a third Oscar nomination this season. Ronan’s organic form of the artistically-inclined seventeen-year-old will draw you into the story. Taking place in the early 2000s, we are introduced to Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson (the knockout Ronan) and her turbulent relationship with her mother (the fantastic Laurie Metcalf). Christine refers to herself as ‘Lady Bird’ because this is the name she has chosen to give herself. “People go by the names their parents give them, but they don't believe in God.”
This shows us a passionate and rebellious side from the high school senior, who’s just trying to find her footing in life. Post 9/11 and set in Sacramento, California, we see a rapidly shifting American economic landscape placed in the overall background of this film. Lady Bird also attends a Catholic high school where she fights on maintaining her image in the wealthy Calvinist world. Lady Bird’s family is financially struggling and sits on the other side of the train tracks from the big houses. With her mother tirelessly working long hours as a nurse and her father hopelessly looking for a job, the family hits its ups and downs in the pathos. Lady Bird and her strong-willed mother are constantly butting heads throughout the film. Read this short piece of the script from a scene in the movie and you’ll see the brawling nature of this mother/daughter relationship.
Lady Bird: “…He barely saw that. I want to go where culture is, like New York.”
Marion (Metcalf): “How in the world did I raise such a SNOB?”
Lady Bird: “Or at least Connecticut or New Hampshire. Where writers live in the woods.”
Marion: “You couldn’t get into those schools anyway.”
Lady Bird: “MOM!”
Marion: “You can’t even pass your driver’s test.”
Lady Bird: “Because you wouldn’t let me practice enough!”
Marion: “The way you work, the way you don’t work, you’re not even worth state tuition, Christine.”
Lady Bird: “MY NAME IS LADY BIRD!”
Marion: “Well actually, it’s not, and it’s ridiculous. Your name is Christine.”
Lady Bird: “CALL ME LADY BIRD LIKE YOU SAID YOU WOULD!”
Marion: “You should just go to City College, with your work ethic. City College and then to jail then back to City College. Maybe you’d learn how to pull yourself up and not expect everyone to do everything for you...”
“They slow for a stop light and Lady Bird dramatically opens the door and rolls out of the car. Marion screams.”
Here, you can see Lady Bird’s struggle to prove to her mom that she's a real person who needs to be taken serious. On the flipside, we see a mother who is struggling at connecting with her only daughter and ends up coming down hard on her. Gerwig’s film is the perfect blend of messiness and communication. Throughout the film, we see Lady Bird grow in her relationships with friends, boyfriends and family. She confides in her best friend Julie (an outstanding Beanie Feldstein) about her need to escape her home town. She calls Sacramento "the Midwest of California.” For New York, she theorizes that college enrollment will be down in the big apple post 9/11.
As for her crushes ... a closeted gay theater geek named Danny (Manchester By the Sea's Lucas Hedges, superb) and an easygoing musician named Kyle (the breakout star Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name, also from this year). Things don’t always go as planned for Lady Bird, such is life. Nevertheless, she stays strong, confident and in the end, finds her roots that makes her who she is in this messy world of ours. Overall, it’s one of the finest examples of well-crated filmmaking this year. Gerwig’s directorial debut earns all five stars from me, I was utterly impressed. The gravity of this film will send audiences everywhere cheering in their seats. In the simplest of terms, Lady Bird is flat-out amazing.
Lady Bird is rated R (Restricted). For language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.
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