Drive-Away Dolls Review

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Drive-Away Dolls is Ethan Coen having a good time. It’s not an all-timer like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, or some other masterpieces that Ethan made with his brother Joel. It’s dripping in the Coen spirit, though, with a simple job gone wrong, quirky violence, and dialogue that makes the absurd sound natural. Rather than his brother, Ethan teams with his wife/editor of 30+ years, Tricia Cooke. When Coen first asked Cooke out, she reportedly said, “I’m a lesbian, I’m not interested.” Although still married with two children, Cooke identifies as a lesbian with both parties having different partners. Drive-Away Dolls might not peel back the layers of their marriage, but you get the sense that it was a fun bonding experience for Coen and Cooke.

While the film doesn’t break new ground, it does have one exceptional element. Two, to be precise. Drive-Away Dolls is carried on the shoulders of Geraldine Viswanathan’s Marian and Margaret Qualley’s Jamie. Aside from being lesbians, the two have little in common. One is a free spirit who can’t hold down a job or serious relationship, going home with a new woman every night. The other prefers going home to a book after her nine-to-five job. Despite their differences, the two friends balance each other out like Thelma and Louise. Similar to that feminist film, Jamie and Marian embark on a road trip with a few unexpected pitstops.

Jamie seeks to get away from her ex, hilariously played by Beanie Feldstein. While Marian wishes to visit her aunt, Jamie has ulterior motives to get her friend laid. The perfect woman might be in Marian’s passenger’s seat. I won’t say if a romance blossoms between these two. What I will say is that I was on the fence about the will they or won’t they tension. It’s rare to see a movie about lesbians who are just friends, which made Bottoms such a breath of fresh air. Drive-Away Dolls runs the risk of going down a more conventional route. The longer we’re with these characters, though, the more we can’t help but ship them. It’s a classic opposites-attract dynamic that proves irresistible.

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Whether or not they do get together, Jamie and Marian are an instantly iconic duo. Love will have to wait, as the dolls find themselves driving a car with a mysterious briefcase. Unlike, Pulp Fiction, the contents aren’t left ambiguous, although less than 5% of viewers will correctly guess what’s inside. In pursuit of the ladies are Joey Slotnick and C. J. Wilson as the mismatched henchmen that are in virtually every Coen production. We also get some entertaining supporting work from Colman Domingo, Bill Camp, and Pedro Pascal, all of whom make the most of their limited screen time. This is Qualley and Viswanathan’s vehicle, however.

At only 84 minutes, Drive-Away Dolls could’ve benefited from a slightly longer runtime, especially during the third act. With so many modern movies overstaying their welcome, though, perhaps it’s better to bow out gracefully. The only other glaring issue is in the editing department. You wouldn’t think this would be the case, as Tricia Cooke was also the co-writer and essentially a co-director. For whatever reason, several scene transitions play like something you’d see in a Disney Channel sitcom, right down to Miley Cyrus’ baffling presence. Occasionally, it fits the film’s offbeat tone, but it’s mostly just distracting. Of course, that’s not nearly enough to get in the way of what’s otherwise a drive-away success.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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