You couldn’t get more mid-American than Missouri. You’d be forgiven for not knowing that the state capital is Jefferson City. It’s an unremarkable state and Ebbing is an unremarkable town (made up it would seem); it’s not trailer trash, it’s not deep south. It’s just a nondescript, middle-class, American provincial town frequented by the usual mish-mash of not quite Hillbillys, not quite racists. They’d have voted for Trump in big numbers; if the place existed.
It’s here that Frances McDormand (just like in the unremarkable town of Fargo) stakes her claim for a place at the top table in the pantheon of greatest living actresses.
It’s here that Martin McDonagh cements his position as the greatest living comedy writer. (As if In Bruges wasn’t enough, he’s got his theatre canon of work to bolster those credentials – The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lieutenant of Inishmore are both comedic masterpieces.)
And it’s here that both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson put in career defining (and probable Oscar winning) performances.
To say that Frances McDormand has everything you need to be the complete actress is an understatement; she’s hilarious, brutal, droll, moving, sympathetic, antagonistic, bombastic, arrogant, crazy, vulnerable, arch, facetious and deadpan. And that’s only in the first 20 minutes. This will unquestionably win her, her second Oscar.
And Martin McDonagh will pick up his second for best original screenplay (14 years after winning best short in 2004) and maybe even his third for best director. He already has no fewer than four (yes 4) nominations at the BAFTA’s and I expect him to win at least half of them – because this is writing and direction of the very highest order.
He’s moved on since In Bruges. Sure the C bomb is dropped very early in the first dialogue scene and turns up several times more. But this is not the full pelt filth that Colin Farrell deployed to intense pleasure in the former.
This is a subtler, equally dark but even more brutal exposition. Each word seems to have been crafted on a lathe. I gasped several times at the sheer dexterity of his writing delivered by masters of their craft.
There’s a dwarf, yes.
There’s an idiot, yes.
But I ain’t telling you no more than that. I saw it without spoilers so you deserve the same respect.
It has a breathtakingly bold finish, I’ll tell you that; spoiling nothing.
This is cinema at its absolute finest. The best film I have seen this year by far (and I thought Dunkirk was truly outstanding).