This comedy/drama written and directed by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges“) would be a fine sleeper hit if it didn’t win a bunch of Academy Awards. However, Frances McDormand, Mrs. Joel Coen, is, with Meryl Streep in “The Post,” a frontrunner for Best Actress. Conversely, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are excellent too as Ozark small town cops who have outraged McDormand by not solving the kidnapping/rape/murder of her daughter.
This is the kind of movie, like “Shakespeare in Love,” “Crash”and “The Artist,” that would be better off in the long run if it didn’t win a whole bunch of Oscars. McDonagh doesn’t quite have control of the tone of his movie, and inserts a lot of both jokes and tragic incidents. If you stumbled upon this movie late at night on cable, you’d think it was well above average. If it won a lot of Academy Awards next March, however, you’d be pickier because your expectations were higher.
Martin McDonagh’s older brother John Michael McDonagh is a fine screenwriter too (e.g., Brendan Gleeson in 2011’s “The Guard“‘; his 2016 comedy “War on Everyone” with Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Pena as crooked but lovable New Mexico cops isn’t bad either). Unlike the Coens and a lot of other modern frateurs, the McDonagh’s have a normal amount of sibling rivalry and thus don’t write together, although they share actors, such as the great elder Gleeson. Lately, they’ve been using the almost incomprehensible Caleb Landry Jones (similarly cast in “Get Out”) as a degenerate Southerner.
Like most of the better filmmakers of 2017, the McDonaghs are, by the standards of 2017, pretty far right wing. But this isn’t widely noticed. Critics think because it’s set in Missouri, “Ebbing” is a Ferguson Movie. But it’s really a Law and Order Movie.
Somebody should make a movie about two rivalrous Irish screenwriter brothers who are finally cajoled into writing a movie together in the mode of the Coens and all the other recent brother acts, disastrously.
It’s really not that easy to get along with your brother (e.g., see the recent hit animated children’s film “The Boss Baby,” now on Netflix.)