LONDON (Reuters) – The London Film Festival closed on Sunday with a violent and profanity-laden dark comedy featuring Frances McDormand, as a small-town mother seeking justice for her murdered daughter, tipped for an Oscar nod.
At the end of a movie fortnight overshadowed by a cascade of allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, writer-director Martin McDonagh said he was happy to close the festival with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing”, calling it “a proper cool film” with a woman at its heart.
“I mostly wanted to write a really strong female lead for a film so I came up with this idea of a very angry mother who goes to war with her local police department,” McDonagh told Reuters on the red carpet in London’s Leicester Square.
“Once I thought that Frances would be the perfect person for it, it wrote itself almost.”
McDormand shot to global fame in “Fargo”, another small-town black comedy, as a North Dakota police chief, a role that won her the Best Actress Oscar in 1997.
In “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing”, her character decides to confront the police chief, played by Woody Harrelson, by hiring advertising hoardings to berate him for failing to find the culprit who raped and murdered her daughter.
“McDormand’s performance is every bit as commanding as her Oscar-winning work in ‘Fargo’ 21 years ago,” Daily Telegraph critic Robbie Collin said in his five-star review of this “gut-twisting, cinder-black comedy” which won the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Harrelson, who starred in Martin McDonagh’s last movie, “Seven Psychopaths” said of the British-Irish filmmaker best know for “In Bruges”: “He’s turned into a real master of his craft and I think he has just gotten better each time.”
A day after the Academy of Motion Pictures expelled Weinstein over allegations of sexual harassment, some actors were more forthright than others over the scandal.
Clarke Peters, who plays an African-American police chief in the small Missouri town beset by racial tensions in “Thee Billboards”, said Hollywood “should go into a room and reassess their humanity”.
Abuse in the film industry was not limited to one individual, Peters said, adding: “We all get accosted in one way or the other.”
”They have this wonderful machine to communicate to all of these people, why use it in such a despicable way?”
The New York Times and The New Yorker have published allegations from a number of women that Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them in incidents dating back to the 1980s, including three who said they had been raped.
Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations. Weinstein, 65, has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Richard Balmforth