Martin McDonagh did not set out to make a film that would please everyone. In fact, he did exactly the opposite. He made a film that could be offensive to everyone, depending on their interpretation. Artists have been provocateurs for centuries but we currently don’t live in the kind of culture where such freedom exists for most filmmakers. Some get a pass, but many don’t. We live in a time when anyone can point a finger and accuse someone of something — and their interpretation becomes accepted by many fact. Anyone who dares disagree risks more than being called wrong, they can be exiled from the village of the righteous. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But maybe it is that bad. Either way, McDonagh has now talked a bit about the issues that he meant to address – not that it will make a difference to the strictest of the finger pointers but he’s made a statement all the same.
“It mostly comes from the idea of Sam Rockwell’s character, who’s a racist, bigoted asshole, that his character is seemingly being redeemed, maybe,” he says. “I don’t think his character is redeemed at all – he starts off as a racist jerk. He’s the same pretty much at the end, but, by the end, he’s seen that he has to change. There is room for it, and he has, to a degree, seen the error of his ways, but in no way is he supposed to become some sort of redeemed hero of the piece.”
The difference between McDonagh’s read and the read of his many accusers (I’m speaking about white people here only, BTW, don’t @me) is that the director wants to believe that a guy like Dixon can and must change, the same way that many who now support Trump can and must change. Many people on Twitter and elsewhere are quick to point the finger and sentence any person who’s gone astray guilty as charged, with no possible path out. This is true across the board of the hive mind online and it’s proven to be true in regard to this movie. What I saw in the film is different from what a lot of others saw, apparently, and that’s something I can accept. I wish more people could accept it. Either way, I don’t believe McDonagh’s motives were bad; I think they were well-intentioned.
Still, McDonagh admits that, while he writes films and plays deliberately designed to provoke, he’s not immune to the negative responses. “I kind of get hurt and wonder, why doesn’t everyone love it?” he confesses. “But I don’t like films that everyone loves. And we’re not making films for six year olds, we’re not making The Avengers. We’re trying to do something that’s a bit little more difficult and more thoughtful.”
“It’s supposed to be a deliberately messy and difficult film. Because it’s a messy and difficult world,” McDonagh concludes. “You have to kind of hold up a mirror to that a little bit and say we don’t have any kind of solution. But I think there’s a lot of hope and humanity in the film and if you look at all those issues with those things in your heart, we might move on to a more interesting place.”
So what, then, would McDonagh say to the film’s detractors if he was erecting three billboards of his own? “I’d say something like, our hearts are totally in the right place,” he says, “something like that.”