May 17, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
There have been Frances McDormand sightings in Petaluma, she is rumored to be a denizen of Bolinas that semi-mysterious enclave of supposedly sequestered celebrities. Frances is the antithesis of what a Hollywood star is generally expected to be. She appeared at the Golden Globe ceremonies in a Mother Hubbard type dress with boy cut gray hair and no make-up. When she won a Globe for best actress in a drama she invited all the other nominees in that category to meet her in the bar later and said, “....the tequila is on me!” Born in Chicago, McDormand received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale where her roommate was Holly Hunter. She made her film debut in Blood Simple which was directed by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. She and Joel have been married for over 30 years. They have an son adopted from Paraguay. She is best known for her role as Marge Gunderson , the pregnant sheriff in Fargo for which she won an Academy Award for best actress. A triple threat, she is one of the very few who have an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. Which brings us to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In this piece she portrays Mildred Hayes a distraught mother whose daughter has been raped and murdered. She envelops this role, tears it up and spits it out. Because the crime has remained unsolved, and bristling at what she feels is the incompetence of the local sheriff, Woody Harrelson, she scrapes together enough money to rent the billboards to basically asks why the criminal has not been apprehended. The billboards are the engine that propels the plot. The boards arouse community sentiment and Mildred even appears on the local T.V. station. Some commend her, others are outraged. Mildred takes on her detractors which include the resident dentist, and her embarrassed ex-husband who has a very young girlfriend. She even confronts the parish priest and takes this opportunity to remind him of the clerical sexual abuse.
In flashbacks, we learn that Mildred's motivation for justice tinged with revenge is motivated mostly by guilt. When Mildred meets with the sheriff he is gentle and understanding feels her grief and tells her that he is dying of cancer. After this encounter, the boards are burned down and Mildred reciprocates by burning down the police station. Her advocate and admirer is James, the used car dealer, a dwarf, Peter Dinklage. He provides her with an alibi. After a suicide, antagonists form alliances but the ending is left ambiguous. Mildred has a dastardly plan but we never know if she goes through with it but it does add a bit of quirkiness to an already twisty tale. Frances McDormand deservedly picked up another Oscar for portraying Mildred.
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