Thoughts on Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) is undoubtedly a remarkable film of high artistic caliber, but I’m not going to do a full review, for two reasons. First, I’m a cis straight ethnic Han Chinese guy in Taipei (where ethnic Han Chinese is the culturally dominant race), and the debate over the depiction of race in the film is way above my pay grade (which is zero, by the way; I don’t even host ads). And second, every significant thing I wanted to say walking out of the cinema has already been said by one reviewer or another. I just have two things to add.

Brian Tallerico has written the review I wish I could’ve, and Alison Willmore has submitted a piece that says everything I would never be able to articulate clearly, for reasons aforementioned. And the inimitable Richard Brody has finally been imitated, in that his take on the film is about the same as that of the friend I went to see it with: predictable and tame.

Alissa Wilkinson does the heavy lifting in fleshing out the Flannery O’Connor allusion, but her conclusion that “[t]he purest vision of grace in the film is Willoughby,” and that since he “is the grace giver, not God,” Jason Dixon’s (Sam Rockwell) grace-powered redemption “without meriting it” is problematic compared to if he’d “receive[d it] from God,” seems to me to ignore the fact that O’Connor often uses humans as vessels of God’s grace. If the film is un-O’Connorish, it’s in granting that role to such an upright citizen as Police Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson)—although, again, Willmore would disagree with that last bit.

The other thing I wanted to point out is the delicious irony in not just the dialogue and shot compositions but also the soundtrack. I knew it would be a wild ride from the very first tune.

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