Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ★★★½

Like the other movies I've seen from either of the McDonagh brothers, this is a mixed bag of wit, energy, emotions and violence, and half of it works as well as the other half doesn't. Fortunately, in this case, Frances McDormand is on hand to pull it together as tightly as possible with a really fine performance. I've heard criticisms that her character is too quirky, too much of a sore thumb in her hayseed community. I like that about this movie; it presents its characters, within a milieu that is too often treated reductively, largely not as types but as individuals -- even its more stereotypical characters, like that played by Sam Rockwell, is fleshed out in some interesting ways. I also like that Three Billboards goes to unexpected places, even when I didn't particularly like where those places were, or felt like Martin McDonagh didn't quite know what do with those places when he got there. Maybe that accurately reflects where the characters end up: feeling an urge and fueled to act, but also half-self-conscious about the futility of the wayward directions they have headed. It's provocative, if not as thoughtful as it thinks it is, and effective when it boils down to the raw emotions that power it.