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Drive-Away Dolls Review [2]

February 27, 2024 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Drive-Away Dolls Margaret Qualley Geraldine Viswanathan Image Credit; Focus Features
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Drive-Away Dolls Review [2]  

I am really struggling to figure out where exactly I land when it comes to the Coen brothers and their movies.

Two of their movies probably place in my top 100 flicks of all time. Well, No Country For Old Men definitely does. I’ve seen that film several times, and I always am enraptured in the tale and the creeping menace of Anton Chigurh. Then you’ve got Burn After Reading, a movie I’ve only seen once, but one that I absolutely adored. I laughed throughout that one. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest comedies of this century, and I’m eager to find a reason to watch it again in the future and have it solidify its standing with me.

There are two more movies that I like — maybe even quite like — but just don’t love. Hail, Caesar! is basically the lite salad dressing version of Burn After Reading. It’s funny, but not AS funny. The characters are quirky and fun, but not AS quirky and fun. The story is engaging, but not AS engaging. I enjoyed watching it for the first time recently, but I couldn’t help but feel mildly let down vis a vis what I was anticipating. The Coens’ remake of True Grit is another movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching, but it didn’t really stick with me long-term. I should check it out again someday, but on one viewing, I remember respecting it, even as someone who doesn’t typically adore Westerns.

Then there were the two letdowns. I’m not saying that I found either Fargo or The Big Lebowski to be what I’d call “bad”, but neither were really for me. Even less for me than Westerns are stoner comedies most of the time, so The Big Lebowski just felt like it was made for someone else. Which is fine! But I can’t place it higher when it failed to resonate with me, you know? Fargo just seemed unfocused, with a lot of goings-on that didn’t quite feel necessary. It was a movie I’d say was good from a direction and cinematography standpoint, but I did not care for the story.

So six movies into their filmography (I don’t think I’m missing any I saw and forgot about), and the results are evenly distributed all over the realm of “Great” to “Underwhelming”. But nothing has really been BAD yet!

(That’s foreshadowing)

Drive-Away Dolls is Ethan Coen’s newest outing, co-written with Tricia Cooke. It stars Margaret Qualley as Jamie and Geraldine Viswanathan as Marian, two best friends who decide to drive to Tallahassee together in the wake of Jamie’s break-up with her girlfriend Sukie (played by Beanie Feldstein).

Because neither owns a car, they decide to engage in a drive-away program where you borrow a car to drive it to a certain location and drop it off there. Kind of like just renting a car, really, and dropping it off at a rental place where you are going. I think. I’m not really familiar with this drive-away thing as the movie explains it.

Unfortunately, they end up with a car that was being held for another pair of drivers. It turns out that the car in question has some important cargo in the spare tire hold, and when Jamie and Marian suffer a blow-out on the highway, they come across what was supposed to be delivered by someone else (no spoilers is making this a bit hard to describe).

The people who want what the car has are in hot pursuit, and Jamie and Marian wrestle with both what to do with what they have found and their feelings for each other as the movie approaches its final destination in Northern Florida.


+ Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan are certainly up to the task. Both are quite entertaining and make a delightful odd couple pairing. The only problem here, and it isn’t the fault of the talented actresses involved, is given how different Jamie and Marian are, we never see how or why they became friends. You wouldn’t really expect them to be based on their differences.

But ignoring that, Marian’s stick-up-her-butt attitude is perfectly conveyed by Viswanathan, and Qualley’s Texas accent and more devil-may-care attitude are charming as all heck from Jamie. The two leads didn’t have the best stuff to work with at points, but they try their level best.

+ The movie is shot well, the typical professional stuff from a Coen with some good angles and takes. And there are a few really creative transitions between scenes. So if you like the basic directorial style of the Coens, you’re going to get that here.

The movie is short at under 90 minutes, but even getting to that length was a struggle. There are two or three weird segments where the movie devolves into psychedelic imagery for a minute for no particular reason. There are two flashbacks to Marian spying on her nude sunbathing neighbor which, I guess, explains when she discovered she was a lesbian, but the moments add nothing of value to the film and could easily have been cut.

Also, there’s a lack of story as to why the briefcase the antagonists want is in the drive-away car and how it got there. It’s a bit confusing, and while you can KIND OF force some disparate dots to connect in your head, it’d be nicer if the movie met you halfway on it.

Oh, and the movie is set in 1999 for… no real necessity whatsoever.

So ultimately, there’s just a lot of nonsense in the script. Stuff that doesn’t belong is included. Stuff that does belong isn’t. It feels like a very elementary effort from Coen and Cooke.

In addition to Viswanathan and Qualley, the movie boasts Feldstein, Matt Damon, and Pedro Pascal among its cast members! A typical Coen bonanza of big name stars! The problem is that the three of them are criminally underused, especially Damon and Pascal, who both have so little to do, you could have cast anyone with an active heartbeat in their roles.

It’s weird to see three bigger actors get shelved so badly in a movie that really could have used a bit more of their presence.

The final score: review Bad
The 411
A comedy that doesn't elicit any laughter is bad enough, and that's what we have here with Drive-Away Dolls. It simply... isn't funny. It tries to be, and it thinks it is, but I'm really not sure I ever even cracked a smile at much that was going on. Combine that with the nonsense aspects and the story points that don't go anywhere, and you end up with a movie I was excited to see but one that ultimately fell very, very flat.

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Drive-Away Dolls, Rob Stewart