I read the script while watching the movie on a recent flight, so let me kick off our discussion by saying two things:
- It’s a terrific script.
- The movie is almost line for line the same as the script. There are some lines of dialogue cut from the film, but I’d say what’s on the screen is 95% what’s in the script.
I was impressed by McDonagh’s writing for many reasons, but the biggest is how he managed to inject humor into a complex, dark, and violent story. There are several laugh out loud moments in the script (and movie) which makes the experience of so much violence that much more compelling, the juxtaposition so startling at times. In fact, it’s interesting to compare the movie to Get Out as both could be seen as social satires. Both do an incredible job melding violence and humor into a coherent tone throughout each film.
Three Billboards also impresses because of the way McDonagh interweaves various subplots, often with surprising twists. For example, that scene (67–68) in which Dixon ends up in Welby’s hospital room and the way that plays out is awesome. It’s one of those intersections which is both surprising, yet fits like a glove, both guys seriously injured, so of course they’d be in the hospital together.
Finally, just to wrap up some general intro comments for the week, how about the way the movie opens? Drops us into Mildred’s life in media res. Driving her station wagon. Spots the three billboards. Backs up. Gets an idea. Heads off to the billboard advertising office. Drops a wad of cash to buy a month’s worth of rental time. We have NO IDEA what’s going on, why she’s doing that. It’s a great example of starting a story after it’s already in motion (her daughter was raped and killed many months previous). It’s efficient, it creates curiosity, and it aligns with current audience sensibilities where they don’t need as much exposition, preferring stories which get going right away.
Great script, good read, excellent movie.
I welcome your general thoughts about Three Billboards. Tomorrow, shift the focus to Plot.