An excerpt from my script review for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which will be available 11/20/17:

4.) Dialogue and Description

ANGELA
Oh why are you never on my side,
Robbie?

ROBBIE
I’m always on your side when you’re not
being a cunt.

ANGELA
Hey!

MILDRED
(same time)
Hey..! There’ll be no more ‘Cunts’ in
this house, you got that, Mister?

ROBBIE
What, are you moving out?

Both women glare at him.

ROBBIE (CONT’D)
It was a gag!

More like What’s in the water in Ebbing, Missouri?

Talk about good dramatic dialogue.

Even the characters that love each other choose a style of communication that seems contrary to that fact.

Page 45:

WILLOUGHBY
It’s still your turn to clean the
horseshit outta the stable, y’know?

ANNE
Oh those fucking horses! They’re your
fucking horses! I’m gonna have those
fucking horses shot!

WILLOUGHBY
I’ll do it, you lazy bitch.

ANNE
Thank you, poppa.
(pause)
That was a real nice day. And that was
a real nice fuck. You got a real nice
cock, Mr Willoughby.

WILLOUGHBY
Is that from a play, “You got a real
nice cock, Mr Willoughby?” I think I
heard it in a Shakespeare one time.

ANNE
You dummy. It’s Oscar Wilde.

Some fancy pillow talk in Ebbing.

But most of it was good.

Characters were combative, and that leads to friction between them which creates drama.

Everyone in this script had an issue with someone else, and that’s important, because characters just can’t be complacently connected, they need to be confrontational when it comes to problems.

Page 9:

DESK SERGEANT
What the fuck do you think you’re
doing, Welby, buncha billboards like
that, you didn’t think there’d be some
kinda ramifications? Legally?

RED
What’s the legal ramifications, Cedric?

DESK SERGEANT
You want me to explain the legal
ramifications, a little punk like you?
And don’t call me Cedric.

RED
Ain’t contravening no laws on
propriety, ain’t contravening no laws
on any fucking thing. I checked all
this up.

DESK SERGEANT
Oh yeah, where’d you check all this up?

RED
In a… book.

DESK SERGEANT
Which book, genius?

RED
Book called ‘Suck my ass, it’s none o’
your business’.

Red is talking to an officer of the law. This is not normal conversation for that situation, and it will cost Red later as the controversial billboards continue to escalate tempers.

Page 15:

WILLOUGHBY
There’s something else, Mildred.
(pause)
I got cancer. I’m dying.

MILDRED
I know it.

WILLOUGHBY
Huh?

MILDRED
I know it. Most everbody in town knows
it.

WILLOUGHBY
You know it, and you still put those
billboards up?

MILDRED
Well, they wouldn’t be as effective
after you croak, right?

WILLOUGHBY looks at her in disbelief, gets in his car, drives
off.

Here’s this moment, where two humans should feel for each other (and they do later), but Mildred won’t have it. She’s sticking to her guns and wants Willoughby to do his job, even if he is dying.

That’s unexpected, and unexpected in a story is good.

WILLOUGHBY
It ain’t really about winning or
losing, though, is it, Mildred? I mean,
do you think I care about who wins or
loses between the two of yous? Do you
think I care about dentists? I don’t
care about dentists. Nobody cares about
dentists! I do care about, or I’m
interested in, tying you up in court so
long that your hours at the gift shop
are so shot to shit that you ain’t got
a penny to pay for another months
billboards. I’m interested in that.

MILDRED
I got some dough put away…

WILLOUGHBY
What I heard was you had to sell off
your ex-husband’s tractor-trailer to
even pay for this month’s billboards,
that right?
(pause)
How is ole Charlie, by the way? He
still shacked up with that pretty
little intern works down at the zoo?

MILDRED
He’s still shacked up with some chick
who smells of shit. I don’t know if the
zoo’s got anything to do with it.
Although I’d hope so.

WILLOUGHBY
How old is she? Nineteen? That must
smart.

MILDRED
Keep trying, Officer. Keep trying.

WILLOUGHBY
What’s Charlie think about these here
billboards of yours, an ex-cop like
Charlie?

MILDRED
Ex-cop, ex-wife-beater. Same
difference, I guess, right?

WILLOUGHBY
His word against yours, though, right?
(pause)
Charlie don’t know about them, does he?

MILDRED
It’s none of his business.

WILLOUGHBY
He’s kinda paying for ‘em though, ain’t
he?

MILDRED
I’m paying for ‘em.

WILLOUGHBY
This month you are.

“Does your man know, woman?” Willoughby tries to get under her skin by playing the sexist angle, but again, Mildred won’t give in…until the very next thing that happens, but I’ll save that for when you read/see this feature.

My one complaint was the “redneck/rural” dialect everyone seemed to use. Like proper English be DAMNED in the Midwest.

For instance from page 43:

RED
Well, who’s it from?

PAMELA
Well, it doesn’t say.

RED
Well, where’s the delivery boy?

PAMELA
Well, he went.

RED
Well, did you see what company he was
from?

PAMELA
Well, no.

RED
Well, what kinda uniform did he have
on?

PAMELA
Well, he just looked like one of those
fat little Mexican boys.
(pause)
On a bicycle?
(pause)
Did I do something wrong?

RED
No, Pam, you did good.

Too many well’s that were meant to be part of that dialect, I’m assuming, but it just came across as lazy and annoying.

Quick note on dialects…try to avoid writing them into your script. It tends to come across more as an ignorant stereotype.

The delivery of almost every line should be left to the discrepancy of the actor playing the part. Trying to control that aspect doesn’t really make you clever, it makes your writing borderline amateur. Not to mention the actor may give you an unexpected take on the line/character that you didn’t consider. It’s a group effort.

(Unless you’re writing/directing, because then the actors have to take your opinions into consideration.)

Want EARLY access to our videos, uploads, and movie/script reviews? Members get them FIRST! Follow this link to our Discussion Forum.

And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here