So this week we finally got around to watching “Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri“, the movie for which Sam Rockwell finally won his long-overdue Oscar:
This movie has been sitting on the shelf for nearly a month, while I was getting caught up on the pre-apocalyptic British crime series “Hard Sun“. (It only consists of six episodes, so I thought I would get through “Hard Sun” in a week or two, but then my wife became semi-interested in it―i.e., interested enough to want to know what was going on, but not enough to stay awake for an entire episode―which slowed things down a bit.) I had previously described the film to her, but having more important things to remember, when it started playing, she had no idea what it was.
Wife: “What’s this movie called?”
Me: “It’s called―Wait, let’s play Charades.” (holds up three fingers)
Me: (mimes having a duck’s bill)
Wife: “Noses? Big noses? Pointy noses?”
Me: (quacks like a duck — presumably in contravention of the rules of Charades)
Wife: “Duck bills?”
Me (unable to think of a way to convey ‘boards’ that wouldn’t involve getting off the sofa): “It’s called ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri’.”
Wife: “This is a movie about billboards?”
Despite being dubious about the premise, my wife sat down to watch it, and immediately recognized Frances McDormand, the actress who played Mildred, the main character in the film.
Wife: “She was in a movie.”
Me: “She’s been in a lot of movies.”
Wife: “With the environmentalists?”
Me: “Oh, ‘Promised Land’. Yes, she was in that. You may also know her from ‘Raising Arizona’ and ‘That must be your accomplice in the wood chipper.’*”
Not long after meeting Mildred, we meet one of the other main characters, the racist police officer Dixon, played by the aforementioned Sam Rockwell. He is introduced singing “The Streets of Laredo”, sounding almost exactly like Johnny Cash doesn’t:
Wife: “This sounds like one of the cowboy songs my dad used to listen to.”
Me: “What does? What he’s singing?”
Wife: “Yes. Go back and play that scene again.” (after playing the scene again; this time, wife mumble-sings along with Dixon) “Yep, he used to listen to that.”
This then became a trend with the songs in this film, for instance:
Me: “What about this one? Did your dad listen to this one?”
Wife: “I don’t recognize it, but it sounds like he something he would have listened to.”
Not long after, we were introduced to a third main character, Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, another familiar face:
Wife: “Is he from ‘Cheers'”?
Me: “Yep. You’re recognizing people right and left in this movie!”**
Later on, a relatively minor character appeared. I thought we might be heading for an actor-recognition trifecta, but this time, the difference in appearance between the actor’s most well-known role and his appearance in this film were too great to be overcome.
Me: “Look, it’s Tyrion!”
Wife: “Really?” (peers at screen) “It is! Except here, he looks like Burt Reynolds.”
Hmm … well, if the ‘stache fits, wear it.
Aside from its themes about justice, racism, revenge, grief, and small-town politics, the film also does some pretty apparent product placement, some of it so blatant that my wife remarked on it. In particular, Jif peanut butter seems to be pretty popular around town.
Later on, I noted a couple of boxes of Kellogg’s cereal; they were shot out of focus, but still identifiable if you looked closely. My wife had a logical explanation for their relative lack of prominence.
Wife: “Obviously they didn’t cough up enough money to get the good product placement. ‘If you pay us $500, your product will be blurry and out of focus. If you pay us $1000 we’ll make sure everyone can read the ingredients on the label’.”
Money does talk, after all.
Three Billboards put my wife to sleep in about twenty minutes, although to be fair, she was already tired when we started it, and she did, at first, think it was a movie about billboards. But when we resumed viewing a day or two later, and it became apparent that it this was not, in fact, a movie about billboards per se, she watched the remainder of the film in one sitting. All except for one little scene, when Mildred goes to the dentist, who―being angry about those billboards―attempts to perform some Steve Martin-style dentistry.
But Mildred is having none of it.
Mildred: “How about some Novocaine?”
(Dentist gets out very large needle)
Me: (shrieks and averts eyes)
Wife: “I hate dental needles. They’re so gross.”
(a few seconds go by)
Me: “Is it over yet?”
Wife: “I don’t know. I’m not looking.”
As my wife likes to note, I routinely watch movies where people get shot, stabbed, bitten, incinerated, beaten bloody with brass knuckles, eaten by zombies, impaled on tree branches (all of which but one happened in “Hard Sun”; guessing which did not is an exercise left to the viewer), etc. etc. etc. But somebody getting an injection? That’s a hard nope. But, you know, we’ve all gotta draw the line somewhere …
* “Fargo”, of course; around here we routinely quote Frances McDormand’s “Fargo” character every time Dennis realizes he’s about to get medication, or some other treatment he doesn’t care for, and takes off for another room. This is referred to as “fleeing the interview”.
** My wife being able to identify actor in a film is fairly remarkable. Recognizing two in the same film is nearly unprecedented. (She has better things to do than remember than actors and movies.)