So does it live up to the hype of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes?
One reason I went to see the film was the high rating and the unusual plot set in an unusual region of the country. I wanted to see how accurate the film was to the region and the anger of the mother investigating her daughter's murder. Storywise, this is well done with very loaded characters full of complexity. You really don't know where the story will end and how the mother will keep reacting. It has a slow pacing, which gives it that small town feel as time does certainly move slower.
Yes, she captures the role very well. She has some real grittiness to the character living in the country with some real dark humor about lynching in the South, which kind feels like a Hollywood interpretation. I lived in a small town like this twice and the people don't brag about being racist, but they do make jokes on being too much a red neck quite a bit. Racism kind of stirs below the surface, which doesn't come up much as in this movie. I do think having had a black president really did change perceptions quite a bit in these small towns of America as I saw changes just where my dad lives or at least that's what I briefly observed last time back to Indiana.
I really liked his character as he does play the slightly racist cop that isn't quite that smart, but is frustrated that Ingrid keeps hassling his boss Sheriff Willoughby. His character is the one that really evolves in the plot as he goes from confident, rambunctious officer to unemployed, caring, unofficial detective. You really don't like his character as he represents all that is wrong in small town police: incompetence and racism, but grow to like his character as he makes small decisions here and there to be a hero.
I wouldn't call it surprising but Red played by Caleb Landry Jones gets to play the local advertiser caught up between Ingrid hiring him to post on derelict billboards announcing her daughter's murder, the sheriff and later towns people taking offense to advertising such a brutal event in the local community. He tries to get out of the contract he signed after the water starts getting to hot to deal with. This comes to a nice clash of characters over the signs themselves.
Woody Harrelson can play some really good roles. His original launch on Cheers as Woody as a homespun not too smart bartender kind of comes through in this role as well. He is just a hair smarter than the other police officers and likely the best of the lot moral wise. He admits most of his force is racist and even homophobic. He has to deal with the situation of the daughter's death building tension in the town and police as well as his own cancer as he is facing his own death. Its a race against time to see if he solves the case before dying.
I think this is a really nice independent movie with a lot of character. I think because of how the film ends it may not have as big of an audience as well as the lack of cinemas showing it at all will be a real detriment for sales. I do think though it has a great story line with a complex topic handled with a lot of character and personality. Its a real shame that cinemas won't carry this movie in too many theatres. I mean I had to go from East Bay to San Francisco to see the thing and there are lot of independent cinemas in the East Bay. Of course, people love a silly, fun entertaining film and I'm not sure that type of audience will appeal to this film, so I understand why cinemas didn't show it as much. Likely as a DVD/streaming film, the movie will do quite well since people won't even know how good it is until they see it.
Have you done any small town art?