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Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

It ends up feeling like a lesbian-sex-filled ode to the Coen Brothers’ bumbling criminal/road movies… while sorely missing one of the Coens.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Thriller

Director: Ethan Coen

Actors: Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Joey Slotnick, C.J. Wilson, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp

Year: 2024

MPAA Rating: R

Country: USA

The Coen Brothers, even with their occasional misfires, are a magic moviemaking duo. But in Ethan Coen’s solo directorial debut, adapting a screenplay by his wife Tricia Cooke, he is sorely missing his other filmmaking half.

Drive-Away Dolls gives nods to many, much more successful films from the Coen Brothers’ own oeuvre, from Raising Arizona to Fargo to Burn After Reading. There are inept goons, an unhinged cop, several hapless folks in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the unlikely duo that finds themselves in the middle of the chaos.

In this case, we have Southern-drawling, libido-driven Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and her pal, straight-faced, buttoned-up Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan). Both have their reasons to leave town, and almost on a whim decide to get themselves to Tallahassee, Florida (where Marian’s aunt lives and Jamie’s ex-girlfriend doesn’t) by delivering a car from a drive-away service. All seems well and good on their road trip until they discover the inevitable metal briefcase in the trunk containing mysterious things of great value… and someone’s head in a handy, dry-iced filled handbag.

To shake up this tried-and-true formula, the main characters are gay women. Co-writer Cooke identifies as queer, and apparently she and Coen have been sitting on this screenplay for a couple decades (and the story reflects this, I suppose, by taking place in 1999). But this fun fact adds surprisingly little to the story, other than there’s lots and lots of lesbian sex. Despite that, the sex scenes are either not particularly sexy, or else are weird male-gaze fantasies (like a women’s baseball team that has group make out parties). Throw in bizarre, psychedelic transitions featuring an uncredited pop star, and frenetic humor that never seems to land, Drive-Away Dolls feels both not fully developed and too long at 85 minutes.

But I do have to say that if the movie had refocused its sights on a certain different character, it would have been golden. Beanie Feldstein, as Jamie’s rage-fueled ex-girlfriend (who is also a cop that gets pulled into the chaos), is absolutely hilarious. She not only steals all of her scenes, she destroys them with a crippling punch to the nuts followed by a roundhouse kick to the neck. When she shows up, you can see what Drive-Away Dolls could have, and should have been.

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