Why ‘Three Billboards’ Deserves to be Best Picture Despite the Backlash
This is a piece I’ve been meaning to write ever since I was dumbfounded to see CNN’s Jake Tapper shutting an interview down with Trump’s White House Aid Stephen Miller as he was demonstrably tired of hearing the same predicable answers. It was shortly after the interview ended that I was happy to read that revenge tale Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri took home The Globe for Best Picture.
Since then, the film has only fallen into repeated successes as it swept both The Baftas and The SAG Awards earlier this year.
The feelings haven’t been mutual though according to social media activity surrounding the film’s success as the Oscar hopeful is currently being vilified as the rival of many of the more left-leaning film, being judges as not being entirely “representative” of life in America at the minute. I inherently disagree with this notion. Three Billboards may look like a safe choice for Best Picture, but it is indeed a special kind of winner as it is a film with an entirely objective viewpoint.
The film is written and directed by British Playwright Martin McDonough, writer of such pictures as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. The film stars Frances McDormand as mother, Mildred Hayes, whose daughter has been raped and killed and seemingly forgotten by local police.
McDonough cites “empathy” as his weapon of choice in helping him eliminate the notion that the film is from an outsider’s perspective and states that he has “failed” if the film is naturally seen as that of an outsider’s perspective. Unfortunately, inclusive is a word seldom muttered by the fans and critics of the film. This is perfectly fine as the United States’ current Political Climate simply won’t allow for it.
The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 election has lit a fire underneath those from both the left and the right and as of this moment, there is only chaos, as the Tapper/Miller conflict shows. We have two sides hell-bent on taking each other down using any means necessary, similar to the party-politics that you’ll find in the UK Parliament.
Unlike the majority of the Oscar nominees this year, Three Billboards firmly stands on the middle ground; something that should be considered sacred by all. The film addresses many of the injustices facing life in America today and boldly addresses each character featured as a human being — free from being seen as archetypical. McDonough has succeeding in finding the human within the inhumane – something that few films have this year.
The brunt of the film’s controversy comes from the fact that the film provides an arc for every character, with some previously vulgar characters – including Sam Rockwell’s Officer Jason Dixon, a racist cop with a penchant for torturing the town’s black residents – coming to their senses after a great deal of punishment and emerging as better people overall. The film has been called “too soft” on Racist characters and has been criticised by many representatives of The American Left for going against the expectations of its viewership despite the punishment and the justified redemption of its characters.
McDonough clearly cherishes the idea of discussion and debate and emphasises that no matter how far-gone a character may be, there is always a way of bringing them out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves as long as they are willing to address their ways and change to help better themselves in order to be able to assist those in the communities that surround them.
I’m glad that McDonough failed in his quest to be inclusive, as Three Billboards would have had to lean incredibly hard to the left as to be seen as inclusive by America’s left-wing and disappear through a wormhole of political chaos as it joined the other more-inclusive films that represent this trying time. Film always reflects the real-world history of the time and we need stories from all perspectives.
As for The UK, if there was a filmic analysis of the country at this time, it would be an honour for it to be made by a person who can look from afar and take note of the nuances of each fighting side otherwise what’s the point of even trying? We may as well scream until every discussion ends abruptly mid-way-through just as The American people saw that morning on CNN.