Last updateWed, 04 Dec 2019 3pm


Welcome To Corrupt Ebbing, Missouri

Corrup Ebbing MissouriStarring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage

Every day I get in a workout running Westwood Avenue up and back. For the four-mile trek I wear shorts, no matter what the weather, and a fanny pack which blasts Carly Rae Jepsen from my phone.

I may get a lot of side eyes during my run, but something that gets even more attention are the huge billboards towering over the train tracks further down Westwood.

Usually the billboards support a typical advertisement like car insurance or new Guy Fieri pasta sauce, but what if there was a stronger message hovering over those tracks? How about something like, “RAPED WHILE DYING. AND STILL NO ARRESTS? HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?” That may gain more attention than me wearing a fanny pack.

Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand, is a single mother who works at the local gift shop where tourists can find the perfect Missouri engraved ashtray. Seven months ago, Hayes’s daughter was raped and burned to death. Since then, the Ebbing Police Department have not arrested a single suspect or found any evidence leading towards one. In protest, Hayes rents out space on three billboards to grab the attention of the police and townspeople.

Director, producer and screenwriter Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy touches upon grief and a humanistic side of the police set in an overlooked part of America, all while boasting some of the greatest performances this year.

In an interview at the Toronto Film Festival, Frances McDormand said of her character, “When you lose your spouse you are a widow. When you lose your parents you’re an orphan. When you lose a child, there’s no word.” After the loss of her child, the stubborn mother is struck with grief.

Mildred hasn’t been attending mass and has kept a low profile in the community. Losing a child is an unimaginable feeling that becomes a part of a parent for the rest of their life.

Not only does Mildred experience the trauma, but goes through it alone with the absence of her husband. Considering the pain a parent experiences, it is empowering to see Mildred jump into her mechanic suit and bring hell to the Ebbing Police Department.

Mildred handles her grief through radicalization when she rents the three billboards to hold policemen accountable. Instead of sitting by the window, looking out at the distant corn field and waiting for the boys in blue to knock on her door, Mildred decides to take matters into her own hands.

Once the billboards go up, the police finally provide attention to Mildred’s situation.

For the past seven months, the file for her daughter’s case has been sitting on desk of lazy officer Jason Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, where he kicks up his feet and reads comic books throughout the day. 

Not only does Mildred make a bold statement through her billboards, but she isn’t afraid to speak frankly towards police officers or anyone who opposes her actions. On a TV interview, Mildred points out how the cops haven’t solved her daughter’s case because, “they’re too busy torturing black folks to solve actual crime.” In another moment, Mildred barges in the police headquarters, addressing a cop by, “f--- head” in front of all the other offices. Mildred’s voice speaks volumes not only on what’s going on in Ebbing, but the entire country. Sometimes one needs to address situations in a blunt matter to bring issues to light.

Having a female lead with a hardnosed attitude gives encouragement to those who are shackled by the chains of heartbreak. Mildred is a character to looks towards for when one is going through an inconceivable tragedy.

It takes plenty of guts to leave the house and carry on with life as if it’s an ordinary day. There won’t be ordinary days with the loss of Mildred’s daughter, but she accepts this in a powerful way. No longer can Mildred tolerate injustice and the mistreatment by the police. To hell with misery and the Ebbing Police Department, it’s time for someone to do something.

Although the Ebbing Police Department is viewed negatively with the resurrection of the billboards, Martin McDonagh sheds a humanistic light on the boys in blue. Police brutality is an increasing issue in the United States. From Los Angeles to Baltimore, the tensions between citizens and cops are escalating through demonstrations demanding justice for victims of police brutality.

The cops in Ebbing, Missouri represent the flaws common in departments. Some officers are racist, while others abuse their power.

McDonagh acknowledges these imperfections, but shows how policemen are capable of change because they are human and have feelings too. 

The chief’s right-hand-man, Jason Dixon, represents the potential for police culture to change.

When we first meet Dixon, he is a low beat who does little for Ebbing other than getting wasted at the local tavern. However, Dixon progressively gains an understanding on the importance of his position.

Dixon gives hope to the audience that maybe one day troubled officers in the force may evolve to serve people justly.

While the film addresses grief and police brutality, it also captures the essence of a small town in the south.

McDonagh is no stranger to creating an unforgettable environment. Ten years ago, the director released In Bruges, one of my favorite films of all time. Bruges is a small gothic town in Belgium, home to medieval buildings, small canals, the lofty Belfry Tower and gargoyles perched on homes at every corner.

A decade later, the atmosphere remains embedded in viewers’ heads and McDonagh magically recreates that same feeling.

Ebbing is a small town where all the action happens on Main Street. The light blue police department dominates most of the real estate with its three stories and drove of cop cars parked directly out front, while other businesses have a modest appearance.

 The local tavern is reminiscent of the bar at my local bowling alley, where dudes stare blankly at a pool table in awe of the bright red felt compared to the rugged green tables in the adjacent arcade. On the other hand, the Ebbing advertising agency is ran by a fella who wouldn’t last a day in Dr. Paul’s BK-250 class.

Outside of Ebbing is God’s country. There is nothing but endless green landscapes and the big Missouri sky. Out in these parts are where the three billboards stand reminding the few who pass by that when they enter in town, they’ll be greeted by an incompetent police department. From the inside and out,

McDonagh successfully creates another intimate environment where it makes the viewer feel like a member of the town.

The officers and townspeople are played superbly by a strong cast. Frances McDormand is Mildred, the tough mother who fights for the justice of her daughter. Mildred’s look consists of her short brown hair slicked back in a bandana while rocking a rugged mechanic jumpsuit. McDormand’s character has a forceful delivery when she’s discussing her daughter’s case.

Mildred looks people square in the eye and bluntly explains the mishandlings by the police department of this case in a commanding tone.

McDormand gives this character a tough presence through her appearance, strength and frank deliveries.

Another standout performance comes from Sam Rockwell, who plays the bumbling Officer Dixon. Dixon has the type of swagger one would expect from an Ebbing police officer.

Rockwell provides a witty walk for the character who looks like he is about to trip ahead of his feet at any moment. The most significant part of Rockwell’s performance is how the actor shows progression in his character. Dixon’s evolution can be felt through Rockwell’s change in tone and attitude. 

The messages plastered on the billboards I encounter everyday are forgettable. Usually the billboards are attempting to persuade us to buy the latest thing. But what if those billboards were supporting something meaningful other than advertisement space, like local grievances?

Sure, the townspeople of Long Branch would discuss controversial issues other than my obnoxious presence, shamelessly playing Carly Rae Jepsen up and down their streets.

However, the conversation may lead to progress and change in the neighborhood. Sometimes, we cannot keep our thoughts stowed away in our mind. It takes the courage and strength of someone like Mildred to expose a problem for someone to actually do something.

IMAGE TAKEN from Rogues Portal

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151