Reel Reviews | Drive-Away Dolls

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

By Charles Kirkland Jr.

When two girls take a drive away job to Tallahassee from Philadelphia and then take a detour delaying their arrival time, they draw the ire of a criminal organization in Drive-Away Dolls.

Extroverted Jamie has just broken up with her girlfriend.  Introverted Marian wants a fresh start.  So when Marian decides to go visit her aunt in beautiful Tallahassee Florida, Jamie hatches a plan to get there.  Instead of flying or buying a bus ticket, they will do a drive-away, and drive a company car to the location that they need.  They go to Curlie’s Drive-Away and ask if they have a car to Tallahassee.  Of course, Curlie has a car but, it was not meant for them.  A local gangster has reserved a car with special cargo in the trunk to be driven by his people.  Everything is alright as long as the girls deliver the car on time.  So when Jamie encourages Marian to take a detour, a whole set of problems is set into motion.

Drive-Away Dolls is a comedy action film written by Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke.  The film stars Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Joey Slotnick, C.J. Wilson, Pedro Pascal, Colman Domingo, and Matt Damon. Ethan Coen also directs the movie.

Written by Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke, this comedy caper follows Jamie, an uninhibited free spirit bemoaning yet another breakup with a girlfriend, and her demure friend Marian who desperately needs to loosen up. In search of a fresh start, the two embark on an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee, but things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a gang of clueless criminals along the way.

Because the main characters are a pair of women, it is easy to see why Ethan abandoned his brother Joel in this endeavor and enlisted his wife Tricia to assist with writing this screenplay.   Unfortunately, it is not clear what Tricia brought to the screenplay because the lead characters in this film could easily be confused with the lead characters in any one of the previous Coen brothers’ classic films.  The tone even matches those in The Big Lebowski, Intolerable Cruelty, or Burn After Reading.  Some characters meander and those that bumble through the movie, all leading up to an irony-filled conclusion.

Nonetheless, the performances by Qualley and Viswanathan are perfect as a modern-day, low-rent, and lesbian version of Thelma and Lousie.  Qualley’s Texas country twang juxtaposed against her incessant musings about life are irritating and intriguing at the same time.  Viswanathan is the shy and repressed foil to Qualley’s exuberance. 

It is curious whether the movie is attempting to make a statement about the emancipation of women and the sexual revolution through the lens of female homosexuality.  It is a bit shocking in its portrayal of the seemingly reckless and carefree lesbian hook-up culture but eventually falls into a comfortable and expected story groove thereby losing its unique identity and becoming a regular Coen film.

Rated R for crude sexual content, full nudity, language, and some violent content, in the end, the best thing that could be said about Drive-Away Dolls is that it is just the typical Coen Brothers’ film, missing a Coen.  It’s funny where it needs to be, a little bit insane, and a pretty cool ride. 

Grade:  C+