Is Frances McDormand’s Mildred in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a film about a woman’s vigilante efforts to get justice for her murdered daughter by publicly shaming the town’s police for failing to sufficiently investigate the crime, made of Teflon? Case in point: After throwing Molotov cocktails into the town’s police station, setting it ablaze, the only reprimand she receives after being provided with the flimsiest of alibis is the side-eye of the town’s temporary police chief.
When Three Billboards dropped on the festival circuit, and just as the #MeToo movement was cresting, many were quick to praise the film for having at its center a woman who wages a fierce battle against the patriarchal issues that are systemic in America. That is, until more than just those with privileged access to film festivals such as Telluride and Toronto got a look at the film and suddenly it was caught in a controversy over, among other things, how Mildred’s whiteness (not unrealistically) absolves her of the sort of punishment that comes so much easier to the blacks who the film (yes, troublesomely) seems particular about keeping off screen.
McDormand emerged very early on as this category’s frontrunner, and while Sally Hawkins and Saoirse Ronan seemed to pull ahead at various points during the awards season, the actress all but solidified her lead after collecting best actress trophies from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. And throughout the season, it’s as if McDormand herself has become a kind of Teflon figure, impervious to the controversy that continues to whirl around Three Billboards. That can be attributed to her performance being as coherent as the film decidedly is not, but it certainly didn’t hurt that McDormand’s notorious (and admirable) aversion to campaigning for awards has all but ensured that she’s stayed ahead of the film’s controversy by virtue of not ever putting herself in the position of having to address it.
Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Could Win: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird