A Bitter Harvest (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017)

three_billboards_posterWhen grieving mother Mildred takes the drastic measure of renting three billboards asking the local Police Chief Willoughby why he has not arrested anyone in the rape and murder of her daughter, the town is thrown into strife. Many believe it is unfair to call out Willoughby. Officer Dixon (an abusive racist cop) is especially incensed, because he feels she has attacked a great man. Add to that, Willoughby is facing a death sentence with cancer.

Three Billboards is a very good film. I want to get that out of the way.  The film is heartbreaking, angering and funny.  Frances McDormand’s Mildred is both sympathetic and a bit infuriating. In one scene, on a date, she is forced to face that she can be quite insensitive. You understand she is in a lot of pain, but she is remarkably out of touch with the world around her, even when people reach out in kindness.  And Woody Harrelson turns in a solid performance as the exasperated Willoughby, a man who seems to believe everyone in town is basically good, including racist Dixon.

And this is kind of the problem the movie has. See, Dixon is a violent racist, one scene plays it up for laughs. In another he violently attacks a the owner of the billboards and punches the man’s secretary in the face. And he just gets fired. Yet the film wants us to see this as a lead up to his redemption. And the film never earns that. There is no evidence he has seen the light for his racism. And even when he has a noble moment, in the end, he and Mildred go on a mission that…well…is morally dark.

I think this was best addressed by video essayist addressed it best in his video “How (Not) To Discuss Racism In Film.  I am including it here, but please note there are massive spoilers.

The End of a Career Pt 1 (The Last Exorcism, 2010)

Last_Exorcism_PosterCotton Marcus is a charismatic preacher who has fallen into disbelief. This probably has a lot to do with his reliance on show stopping special effects to win over his audience. He has lost his belief in evil…and is ready to walk away from the pulpit. But he is participating in a documentary following his last big act…performing an exorcism. He does not believe he will be dealing with demons of course.

At first, when he arrives at the farm of the Sweetzer family, he plays up some drama. But they start to believe there is a much more human explanation.  But the young woman may actually be possessed.

Done in a found footage format, the film has really good performances. In fact, this is a really good film until it goes off the rails in the final fifteen minutes. At that point it gets very silly with it’s overdone demonic images, leaving behind any uncertainty about the young woman’s condition.

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