Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Berry’

You Rock Mildred Hayes

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Christopher Berry, Zeljko Ivanek, Sandy Martin, Amanda Warren

Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo) gives another Oscar winning performance as the tough and angry Mildred Hayes in director Martin MCDonagh’s acerbic small town drama Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The In Bruges director paints a visceral picture of a small town populated with angry residents trapped by their own limited destinies as they battle to deal with grief, anger, death and divorce.

Featuring a phenomenally well placed cast, Three Billboards also contains stand out performances by Woody Harrelson as Chief Willoughby, Sam Rockwell as the rash and violent mama’s boy cop Dixon, who exudes pent-up aggression in his posture.

There are a host of smaller roles notably played by Peter Dinklage as James, Oscar nominee John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) as Mildred’s abusive ex-husband Charlie who has run off with a nineteen year old and Caleb Landry Jones (American Made, Get Out) as the Ebbing advertising manager Red Welby who unknowingly rents out the Billboards.

At the centre of this brittle portrayal of small town America is Frances McDormand as Mildred who is still grieving the rape and murder of her daughter Angela, a case still unsolved by the Ebbing police department.

Their bureaucratic ineptitude prompts Mildred to hire out Three Billboards which cast blame on Chief Willoughby and his team including Dixon and Desk Sergeant played Zeljko Ivanek.

Mildred’s anger and her constant profanity to the town’s population causes her relationship with her young son, Robbie, superbly played by Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) to deteriorate.

Without giving away an intricate plot, Mildred’s main battle comes up against Dixon, a tightly wound on point performance by Sam Rockwell who deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Martin McDonagh’s profane script and lively characters should have earned him an Oscar for best original screenplay but more significantly he managed to cast just the right actors in this drama which exemplify all the prejudice, bitterness and anger of being trapped in small town America which has lost touch with current socio-political trends sweeping the major cities.

Three Billboards is a powerful indictment of complacency, a brutal commentary about the violence perpetrated against women everywhere, a lot of which goes unpunished especially in provincial settings like Ebbing, Missouri which are sealed off from the nerve centres of cosmopolitan cities by their paucity and lack of economic opportunities.

It’s a relevant film about vengeance, grief and guilt, sharpened by Frances McDormand’s superb performance as Mildred Hayes who takes the law into her own hand, challenging authority and disrupting the status quo by hiring Three Billboards to show up the law enforcement as being incompetent idiots.

Three Billboards is highly recommended viewing, which will surely be discussed in years to come as a nerve-wracking examination of gender and social dynamics in localized communities.

The Oscar winning Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

 

 

 

 

Louisiana Legality

The Whole Truth

Director: Courtney Hunt

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Renee Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, James Belushi, Gabriel Basso, Jim Klock, Christopher Berry, Ritchie Montgomery

The technique of a voice over in a film normally endears the audience to that particular person or characters point of view.

The voice over is effectively used in director Courtney Hunt Louisiana Legal thriller The Whole Truth starring Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Devil’s Advocate and Dangerous Liaisons) as hotshot defence attorney Richard Ramsey who is called upon to defend the son of a murder victim, Mike Lassiter played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8). The murder victim is the misogynistic Louisiana lawyer Boone Lassiter played with relish by James Belushi who audiences glimpse in a series of carefully timed flashbacks.

The voice and the character’s viewpoint belongs to Ramsey so immediately audience’s perceptions of guilt and innocence are framed through his skewed and cynical viewpoint.

To add some diversity to an otherwise bland white middle class legal drama is British star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) appearance as Ramsay’s second chair Janelle Brady who is suspicious of the entire legal process, not least of all Ramsay’s close relationship with the defendant’s mother the sultry yet seemingly innocent Loretta Lassiter played with sufficient mystery by Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain) who is back on the big screen after a hiatus.

Zellweger who has undergone a significant transformation as an actress since her performances in Chicago, Nurse Betty and her recent hits with the Bridget Jones trilogy, plays the battered Southern belle to perfection. While the screen chemistry between Reeves and Zellweger is questionable, The Whole Truth is hardly Body Heat or Basic Instinct, then the film’s startling narrative was never intended to be sexually provocative.

Frozen River director Courtney Hunt is determined to explore all the legal technicalities of a murder trial including undercutting the testimony of eye witnesses and shifting the validity of a clear timeline of events which lead to the horrible Boone Lassiter being stabbed in the heart in the marital bedroom, indicative of a serious crime of passion. It is refreshing to see so many female directors making interesting films these days and The Whole Truth is certainly entertaining with its complex portrayal of Louisiana legalities.

The Whole Truth is a fascinating courtroom drama, with sufficient amounts of twists and allegations to keep fans of legal thrillers guessing right up to the last frame. However, the film does not elevate itself into the realm of a truly remarkable thriller such as Richard Marquand’s The Jagged Edge with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges or Primal Fear featuring an Oscar worthy turn by Edward Norton as the accused altar boy Aaron.

In the case of Louisiana versus Mike Lassiter, Keanu Reeves’s voice over as the slimy lawyer Richard Ramsey lulls audiences into a false sense of justice.

The Whole Truth gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 elevated by a notable performance by Gabriel Basso as the illustrative accused Mike Lassiter. Fans of courtroom dramas will certainly enjoy this American thriller set in St Bernard’s Parish near New Orleans.

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