It’s somewhat baffling how Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has become such a sweeping favourite with awards voters.
OK, I get it: Every year needs a movie that the industry can clutch (in this case with a firm grasp) and flock towards with fawning, like-minded adoration.
Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist, La La Land – all are brilliant films in very different and deserving ways, worthy of the multiple awards and acclaim they each received.
But for me, Three Billboards doesn’t sit comfortably into this same group.
And that’s certainly not intended as any disrespect to Martin McDonagh’s awfully grim, engaging, and dry sensibility of a movie that perfectly sustains itself as a black comedy crime-drama.
The problem is it doesn’t necessarily do anything to elevate it onto the level of a so-called ‘Oscar favourite’.
Indeed, it may still be pipped by the likes of The Shape Of Water, Call Me By Your Name, or even Get Out, if Moonlight’s success is any sort of basis for a greater push for diversity in Hollywood.
That said, if the past few decades of industry awards are anything to go by – notably how well a film does at both the Golden Globes and BAFTAs – then it looks a dead cert to perform well at this year’s Oscars.
When I saw it last October, I left the cinema with a distinct sense of unsatisfactory profoundness – profound in the way it conveys itself, and unsatisfied by the manner in which it draws to an end.
Pretty much everything about the film was great, but it somehow felt incomplete – this may have been the director’s intention. But as a viewer, it was lacking an overall distinction, and its ending wasn’t as neat or well executed as it could have been.
Three months, Four Golden Globes, and five BAFTAs later, its chance looks significantly better than it did back then, which encouraged me to reexamine my experience with it.
It’s not like I’m not a fan of the film.
Frances McDormand is as captivating as ever. But ask yourself, when isn’t she?
So where has this sudden trend where everyone in the highest reaches of the movie biz are voting for it and finally recognising McDormand for her talent emerged from? Because it’s been 21 years since she won Best Actress for Fargo.
The film is undoubtedly well-written, competently directed, and boasts a solid supporting cast in the shape of Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Peter Dinklage but I’m confused by what specifically has pushed it into the forefront of every awards show thus far.
For me, Three Billboards is certainly a great but not extraordinary movie.
McDonagh’s In Bruges was superb, yet it gained a solitary Oscar nomination back in 2009 for its writing. Why? What elevates this one above that?
Does Three Billboards offer something I’m overlooking?
I appreciate the themes and subtexts it possesses: it handles racism, sexism, sexual assault, discrimination, and domestic violence to varying degrees of success. The fact it includes these prevalent issues could attribute to its appeal.
Maybe it’s its raw representations that people are latching onto. Or it could simply be a resonance to reality that audiences are connecting with – issues that are touched upon in society but not overcome or resolved by any means.
Out of all the Best Picture contenders at the upcoming Oscars, it doesn’t feel like the strongest, either.
Take into account its competition – titles such as The Shape Of Water, Call Me By Your Name, The Post, and Get Out – and it shouldn’t be up there as a possible (and ever more likely) winner. Yet the reality appears to be that, if history has taught us anything, it may easily walk away with Best Picture, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, and Original Screenplay.
Then again, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may just be that rare feature that inexplicably becomes a popular classic for reasons unknown, other than it speaks about topical issues that many are publicly standing up to in 2018.