It is offering a different listing to attract a customer or two – and that includes the return of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri following hefty success for two of its actors at The Oscars.
And so it was that I found myself in the third row with my £1 mug of tea one lunchtime this week for the award-winning black comedy crime-drama, together with a significant ‘grey pound’ contingent.
Therefore, when the C-bomb was dropped within the first 10 minutes by Frances McDormand, I shrunk into my seat like I was watching something naughty with my Gran!
But I am so glad I have caught on the big screen what, in my humble opinion, is a modern classic.
McDormand (best actress winner and rightly so) is the remarkable Mildred Hayes, an intelligent, no-nonsense, boiler-suited, bandana-wearing gift shop assistant with a broken heart and a big idea.
Our small-town heroine hires the three disused, dilapidated billboards on Drinkwater Road, the route in and out of the fictional town of Ebbing, in order to send a strong message to Sheriff William Willoughby about how she feels regarding the lack of progress in the investigation into the violent murder of her daughter Angela.
I won’t reveal the question it poses, suffice to say the board designed to be read first is three words but is decidedly shocking, particularly when we later learn the contents of a petty argument the mother had with the pretty teenager as she flounced out of the door, never to be seen alive again. And so the scene is set.
The weight of grief, regret, fury, sorrow and numbness rest heavy on Mildred, for whom consequences are inconsequential (wait until you see her in the dentist). She is devastated. Wrongs have to be righted. Closure needs to come. The killer must be found. She has to take matters into her own hands. She needs to focus certain minds on certain jobs.
The light and shade, the multi layers; it is mastery from the captivating McDormand, who is outstanding in this role (written specifically for her by Martin McDonagh).
And so too is Sam Rockwell (best supporting actor winner and rightly so) in his. Officer Jason Dixon is the tortoise-loving, racist mummy’s boy who ‘tortures people of colour’, throws others out of windows and can’t walk in a straight line on his way into work in the morning after dwarf-baiting beer drinking in the bar the night before. Rockwell not only presents a bigoted, bullying buffoon, but mines his shallows to then find the humanity and humility – and potential as a detective after all.
Woody Harrelson is ace as the revered police chief who appeals to Mildred to afford him some compassion as he deals with the onslaught of incurable pancreatic cancer. She instead suggests that should serve as motivation to finish the job before he croaks it. And the priest does not get an easy ride either when he visits asking the billboards are taken down; Mildred dishes out a brutal lesson in culpability.
Cut then to a wrenching scene where a deer approaches as she plants flowers and she crumbles into her sadness unable to feed it ‘pointy Doritos’ in case it dies too.
I felt the same about Manchester By The Sea as I do about this film. It has class and it has clout as it captures the insular nature of a rural Southern community with heart and soul and spit, grit and humour. Exquisitely shot, expertly told. It deserves to be watched. That is all.
IN A week where sport continues to disappoint (nope, that’s not cricket Steve Smith), my second watch this week was fellow Oscar-winner Icarus.
The Netflix-backed production, which won best documentary feature, originally set out to chart the progress of playwright and amateur cyclist Bryan Fogel as he took performance-enhancing substances to prepare for the Haute Route event in an attempt to cheat the testing regime and expose its weaknesses. ‘Inspired’ by the story of Lance Armstrong, who never failed a drugs test, he was determined to muckrake.
Could he have predicted the gargantuan pile of manure he was about to turn over? When he enlisted the help of Grigory Rodchenkov – the flamboyant head of Russia’s anti-doping team – the film took a different and darker turn. Rodchenkov went on to reveal what he said was the extent of decades of state-sponsored abuses in the system, implicating Vladimir Putin himself – a decision that now sees him (perhaps unsurprisingly) living in witness protection in the United States.
The evidence presented was instrumental in Russia’s ban from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
It could have done with being half an hour or so shorter, but that can be forgiven for the jaw-dropping subject matter presented. Rodchenkov is charismatic, a playboy of sorts who Fogel is clearly fond of, but his nefarious activities cannot be underplayed and he swings between revelling in the conspiracy to regret with the fact blood may be on his hands. Like the plot of the best thriller, an incredible story.