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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Joyce * * * * ½

Don * * * * *

(Dark drama/comedy)

I was completely mesmerized by this clever, profane morality play, while Joyce liked it almost as much.

Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a foul-mouthed, bitter, revengeful mother of a teenage daughter who was raped and murdered. Mildred is outraged by the lack of progress by the local police in solving the crime, driven to the point of renting three billboards to express her feelings toward local police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).

While Mildred rages away against the chief, he finds himself sympathetic toward her. But he has his own problems. He is dying of cancer.

Sam Rockwell plays Dixon, a cop with some big anger issues, making him a suspect. John Hawkes plays Mildred's ex-husband who has taken up with a 19-year-old girl. Lucas Hedges plays Mildred's son who, like most people associated with her, is affected by her determination to solve the case. There are bar fights, police brutality, bombings and a variety of violent acts as Mildred relentlessly tries to do what the police have failed to do.

If all of this sounds like a real downer, it is far from it. We root for the angry woman. We feel great sympathy for the police chief. We hate the angry cop. And we laugh at the interactions.

McDormand is a sure pick for Best Actress, as you find yourself rooting for her in spite of her outrageous behavior. Harrelson, in a smaller role, also has us on his side. Peter Dinklage has a smaller (no pun intended) role as a man who is bullied because of his size and comes to the aid of Mildred, stealing the movie at the great, creative ending. Few movies have held our interest like "Three Billboards,” and even fewer have given us such a clever ending. In spite of the violence and profanity, the film is loaded with hope, redemption and moral issues.

If excessive profanity bothers you, it may distract from the powerful moral impact of the movie. Stay with it, let it immerse you in its points of view, and go home with much to think about.

Rated a big R for the reasons noted.

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