The Millions

Who Gets to Change? Representation in ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’

The crowd erupted Oscar night when Frances McDormand took the stage for Best Actress and announced, “I’m hyperventilating a little bit so pick me up if I fall over because I’ve got some things to say.” It was classic McDormand for those who’ve followed her since her other Oscar performance in Fargo: A little 30’s screwball comedy, wide eyes and manic gestures, that can drop into a tell-it-to-you-straight tone. She went on to call out the industry and asked actors to consider an inclusion rider, a contract clause that would pressure a movie to hire more diverse casts and crews.

Her new film, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, nominated for Best Picture, also aspires to tell you something straight, the rage of a small-town mother. Mildred Hayes’s teenage daughter was raped and killed; in response, she rents three billboards that call out the sheriff for failing to solve the case. Reviews have been overwhelmingly favorable. Rotten Tomatoes’s “top critics” gave it a 94 percent “fresh” rating. One, Alexandra MacAaron of Women’s Voices for Change, said, “The movie is one of the angriest films in recent memory. Yet it has moments of unlikely (yet hilarious) comedy and sincere tenderness, along with acts of nearly unwatchable violence.”

It’s the violence off stage that drives the rage. When the movie(there’ve been so many men in the role there’s a ). Unlike them, McDormand doesn’t have a clear target for revenge, since the killer may’ve been a drifter passing through. She does have the police to bother, comically portrayed by two likable actors, and. In fact, much of the movie is shot in a darkly comic tone that differs from the dread of classic revenge-flicks like ’s . It’s this tone that characterizes all of director ’s movies. It worked to brilliant effect in his first, , where the comic tenor is shattered by bouts of intense violence. so successfully combines that keep-you-off-balance tone with a great cast (indie favorite  and ) that it seems to have masked its racial problems to the critics.

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