Drive-Away Dolls | Review by: Luke Elisio

 There’s a reason why they say two heads are better than one. Sometimes you need a partner to bounce ideas off of, balance you out, and share the overall load with. In the case of Ethan Coen and his solo feature directorial debut, “Drive-Away Dolls,” it’s clear that he needs his brother Joel with him. Now, would having yet another heterosexual man in his 60s work on this movie about two lesbians in their 20s have helped the quality of “Drive-Away Dolls?” Probably not. Nor would having another Coen brother on this movie make it any less pretentious, overly-stylized or occasionally nonsensical. 

The premise of “Drive-Away Dolls” (that two friends unknowingly rent a car with precious cargo in the trunk and are pursued by criminals) is a fun one that has the potential to be hilariously memorable. Just think of “Dumb and Dumber” or “Twins.” Sadly though, even those movies are more entertaining, thought out, and satisfying than this. The crime aspect of “Drive-Away Dolls,” the importance of what’s in lead characters Jamie and Marian’s trunk, is so non-existent and has zero impact on the movie for so long, that it’s baffling. What could have been a straightforward madcap comedy becomes a convoluted mess that makes the audience resent it the longer it goes on. There are two genre movies happening neither of which is particularly enjoyable on its own or when they finally come together. 

The biggest question surrounding “Drive-Away Dolls” is, “who is this for?” It feels like it’s trying to emulate the heart and humour of movies like “Booksmart” or “Bottoms” but it comes off as artificial. Perhaps it’s because Coen and co-writer / wife Tricia Cooke are tasked with writing two young lesbians in the 1990s and they believe that simply screaming a part of the body counts as a punchline. It’s Farrelly Brother humour but at it’s absolute worst. That type of humour when done right can be hysterical but the execution of it in “Drive-Away Dolls” is lazy and non-committal. There were a handful of laughs at the beginning of the movie that inspired faith in the rest of the sluggish 86 minute runtime, but as “Drive-Away Dolls” goes on it just proves to be more of a chore to get through.

The saving grace of “Drive-Away Dolls” is Geraldine Viswanathan as Marian. Her performance singlehandedly delivers the movie’s few laughs. To think about what she would be capable of with better material is mind-blowing. She and Margaret Qualley have a decent friendly chemistry but man oh man is it a bummer to have Beanie Feldstein as a lonely supporting character when it’s obvious she would have devoured as a lead character opposite Viswanathan. In fact, almost any of the characters who appear for what is basically glorified cameos (Pedro Pascal, Miley Cyrus, Colman Domingo) would have made for more entertaining leads.

Hardcore fans of the Coen Brothers signature style and tone will probably find enjoyment in “Drive-Away Dolls” but for everyone else, this is a ride that’s not worth taking.


Review by: Luke Elisio

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