Drive-Away Dolls

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Drive-Away Dolls
dir Ethan Coen
scr Ethan Coen, Tricia Cooke
prd Ethan Coen, Tricia Cooke, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robert Graf
with Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Joey Slotnick, CJ Wilson, Bill Camp, Pedro Pascal, Matt Damon, Connie Jackson, Annie Gonzalez, Miley Cyrus
release US 23.Feb.24,
UK 15.Mar.24
24/US Focus 1h24

feldstein domingo pascal

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Drive-Away Dolls
While this high-energy road-trip crime comedy feels rather thin, there's just enough smart dialog to make up for the relentlessly absurd plot. Otherwise, the film is a blast of profane banter, messy violence and lesbian antics, each of which will perhaps appeal to various audiences. Working with his wife Tricia Cooke, filmmaker Ethan Coen creates a lively, loose-limbed romp that's packed with sparky characters who are out of control.
In 1999 Philadelphia, the oversexed Jamie (Qualley) has split from her angry-cop girlfriend Sukie (Feldstein) and is determined to relax her buttoned-up pal Marian (Viswanathan). So she decides to accompany Marian on a trip to Tallahassee to visit her aunt (Jackson), using the drive-away car service run by Curlie (Camp). But he mistakenly gives them a Dodge with a secret cargo. And the Chief (Domingo) needs it, so he sends two inept goons (Slotnick and Wilson) to retrieve it. On the road, Jamie takes Marian on a tour of lesbian bars, soccer players, basement parties and more.
We know from the start that the stash includes the head of Santos (Pascal), whose metal briefcase contains something important. And the case's contents feed into a running joke that will incriminate an ambitious politician (Damon). Along the way, there are references to both lurid B-movie exploitation thrillers and Coen brother classics, plus several swirly psychedelic interludes, one of which is a flashback featuring Cyrus as someone named Tiffany Plastercaster.

Qualley and Viswanathan make a terrific duo, with archly contrasting personalities that begin to fit together in engaging ways as Qualley's outrageous firecracker shows some depth and Viswanathan's timid wallflower reclaims her feisty purpose. The surrounding cast of scene-stealers adds a constant stream of nutty hilarity, expertly layering in character quirks and underlying motives. So even if there isn't much to identify with, it's a lot of fun to watch.

Colourful imagery and snappy attitude keep the film entertaining, even if it never quite resolves itself into something meaningful. The undercooked script is surprising for a project that has been in the works for more than 15 years. But Coen and Cooke fill the screen with gleefully transgressive material that's infectious, thanks largely to the disarmingly fizzy chemistry between Qualley and Viswanathan. It's easy to root for Jamie and Marian to get the best of these idiot baddies.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 26.Feb.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall