"Drive-Away Dolls" Film Review

Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

"Drive-Away Dolls" Film Review

Rating: 3.5/5

By: Nathaniel Simpson

    Ethan Coen, who makes his solo directorial debut with this erratic film, really shows his love of '70s exploitation cinema and B-films throughout "Drive-Away Dolls". This film is odd, horny, contains loads of social commentary that apply to today's world, and is easily a fast and fun time (literally, as the film clocks in at only 84 minutes). While there are great moments scattered throughout this film, and equally hilarious moments here and there, the movie as a whole feels very uneven, with segments and storylines that simply don't work as much as others. 

    The story is centered around two lesbians named Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Jamie (Margaret Qualley), who are journeying to Tallahassee to start a new life. When they decide to use a car service that allows them to drive a car and drop it off to someone else who needs it at their destination (called a "drive-away" car), they weren't expecting the vehicle to contain a briefcase in its trunk, with the inside contents being so important that someone would kill for them.

    Now trying to figure out what their relationship actually is, and with Marian dealing with her pent-up sexual frustration, the two women are now on the run from the man that wants this case (Colman Domingo) and his henchmen, who will stop at nothing to get the case back.     

    The first thing you will notice about this movie is how Coen decided to take the approach to make this movie as cheesy as possible. Obviously, he is going down the path to celebrate the history of B-films and therefore, wants to make this movie feel as such. The opening scene, which shows Pedro Pascal guarding a briefcase with his life before he is pursued and brutally murdered in a very funny and obscene way, shows that this movie is not going to take itself too seriously and the audience shouldn't either.

    When this was first happening and the movie was kicking off, a huge part of me was wondering what the hell I was watching. I wasn't entirely sure what Coen was going for this movie, but as it started to progress, I began to pick up on what this famous filmmaker was laying down. He made this movie to simply entertain the audience for less than an hour-and-a-half, and he was going to add in some not-so-subtle social commentary in there as well. In that regard, I think he did an excellent job. Some movies try to subtly hint at what they are trying to say, and Coen really just lets his characters go full force with how him and his wife (who wrote the screenplay with him) actually feel about today's climate. Whether it is concerning sexual corruption in politics or how Florida wants to condemn members of the LGBTQ+ community, the filmmakers really let the viewers know how upset they are with what is happening, justifiably so. 

    Viswanathan and Qualley are great in their roles and are a lot of fun. Qualley plays this redneck character that we have never really seen her play before, so it's definitely interesting and quite hilarious to see her like this. They have pretty good chemistry for the most part, and are both able to be incredibly sexy when they need to be. They are great glad characters here and work well under Coen's direction. The same can be said for most of the minor characters here, which also include Matt Damon, but their roles are too little to have any major impact here. 

    Coen makes the film run a very fast pace for a short runtime, which I think both benefits and hinders the film. With the restraints, he is able to tell a story very quickly, which really leaves no room for there to be much filler or scenes that move very slowly and lead to no where. The story is quick, concise, and works at this very fast pace. However, Coen does add in some parts that could have been removed. There are numerous instance of sex that I think could have been shortened for the sake of time, and doesn't really add much to the story as a whole. At the same time, with the sex scenes takin up roughly 25% of the film I would say, there is so much more Coen could have done with the movie here. He could have added more backstory or meaning to some of the characters, and therefore gave the actors a chance to make more profound moves in the film. While it works very well as a quick, fun watch, I know Coen is more than capable of really making these characters shine and ultimately give them more meaning than they have in the final product. 

    I also want to mention how this movie thinks it is funnier than it actually is. There are moments that are absolutely hilarious and cheeky, but they are few and far between. Many of the jokes or gags fall on deaf ears, and don't do much to make the audience even chuckle. It's not even because they are too complex or go above the viewer's heads, but it's simply because they're not funny. I'm not sure if Coen thinks using smart humor is the way to go, but most of the time, it simply didn't work well here. 

    Sure, this movie is fun and is incredibly enjoyable for the most part, but it was surprisingly a tad disappointing. I honestly expected a lot more from Ethan Coen for his solo directorial debut, but it seems like he just took the safe and easy route. I wish he could go back and use this same concept, but give the story and characters much more meaning and importance than he actually does. This seems like more of an exercise in filmmaking for the veteran director, but not one that works the best as a completed film.