Also irritating Hayes, as it turns out, is that her ex-husband, Charlie (John Hawkes), is living with a barely legal girlfriend (Samara Weaving) who is so dense she can't even get mad at her.
A woman of Hayes' fortitude is not necessarily going to be devoid of an admirer of her own, but in a backwater like Ebbing that turns out to be James (a deadpan Peter Dinklage), who says of himself, "I know I'm a midget who sells used cars and has a drinking problem, I know that."
"Three Billboards" takes so many devious turns that it just about whipsaws our expectations, but it's always laser-focused, always clear where it is going and in its determination to take us there with it.
Because nothing is out of bounds where McDonogh's work is concerned, there are moments, as its characters wrestle with anger and the consequences of anguish, when you may fear we'll be left with no one to side with, but a director this smart has got that covered as well. Just not in the way you have in mind.
'THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI'
Rating: R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
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