Drive-Away Dolls Review – A New Kind of Coen Movie

drive away dolls review

Drive-Away Dolls, the first solo-directed feature film by legendary director Ethan Coen, is best described as a lesbian road trip movie. Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan star as two friends who decide to ditch town in search of adventure – in Tallahassee, of all places – and find themselves being chased by mobsters who are after a briefcase that was in the car that they used on their journey. It’s a wild ride, filled with everything from great acting to bizarre transitions. Our Drive-Away Dolls review will cover the good, the bad, and everything in between. So, let’s get into it!

The Good

In an era filled with remakes and sequels, Drive-Away Dolls presents something truly unique. The film features queer friendship and romance in a bold, unapologetic light, and it certainly isn’t afraid to take risks. Genres blend together confidently, from violent crime to belly laughs to heartwarming conversations. It manages to feel fresh while also evoking a sense of nostalgia for its tributes to 70s cinema.

The film is also relentlessly funny. Much of the humour comes from the boldness of Margaret Qualley’s Jamie, who reminds us of an overly honest friend. There are also laughs at the sheer audacity of some of the directions that the film goes, leaving plenty of unexpected gags.

Another strength of the film is our inability to predict what will happen next. I stopped bothering to guess where things would go, which is hard to do in a crime film. For example, hearing the film’s plot would make one assume that the briefcase is full of money, drugs, or something similar. We won’t spoil that reveal, but trust me. You’ll never see it coming. Try to guess throughout the film, and it will only make the viewing experience better. 

Drive-Away Dolls (2024).
Image via Focus Features.

The Bad

Despite the fun, Drive-Away Dolls comes with some downsides. There are some hilarious cameos, including Matt Damon and Miley Cyrus. Other roles, like Pedro Pascal’s Santos and Colman Domingo’s Chief, feel wasted. The lack of exploration may make sense in the grand scheme of things, but we can’t help but be disappointed by it.

The greatest weakness, however, is that this film doesn’t seem to know who it’s for. There is magic in Coen Brothers movies that transcends typical audience demographics, but Drive-Away Dolls doesn’t fit the same criteria. I can’t think of many friends I would take to see this film, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody at the water cooler. It worked for me, a queer millennial, but I can’t see it working for a quarter of the people who might head out to see it when they see the cast and crew.

Matt Damon
Image via Focus Features.

Ethan Coen Gets Solo Review In Drive-Away Dolls

The Coen Brothers have produced some of the most memorable movies of the past decades, from No Country for Old Men to Fargo. The directing duo has been moving toward more individual projects since 2019, and Drive-Away Dolls is the first narrative film by Ethan Coen.

Fans of original Coen Brothers work may wander into the theater hoping for some typical Coen motifs. Imperfect crime, impossible plans, and unwavering character motivations are hallmarks of the brothers. Drive-Away Dolls features sprinkles of some common themes while straying far away enough to make no mistake: This isn’t a Coen Brothers film.

The Lead Duo Shines

Margaret Qualley has been a rising star over the past five years. Aside from her lead in Netflix’s Maid in 2021, most of her roles have pushed her to side character work. Yet, she’s still stolen plenty of shows. Drive-Away Dolls finally gives her a chance to lead, and the role of Jamie is an electric one. Her swagger perfectly suits Qualley’s aura of confidence, and it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role.

Geraldine Viswanathan’s role as Marian is the total opposite of Jamie’s. She’s more level-headed, less confident, and has less extreme interests. The actress, who has stolen our hearts before in films like Blockers and The Broken Hearts Gallery, is an excellent scene partner throughout the film and provides a good balance.

drive away dolls
Image via Focus Features.

Is Drive-Away Dolls A Good Queer Movie?

There aren’t a lot of mainstream films featuring lesbian leads. Drive-Away Dolls has a lot of fun representation, never shying away from even the most intimate subject matter. There are a lot of jokes that could only be used in a movie that is this proud of its queerness, and it works.

The behind-the-scenes team did leave me curious about how they came to such storytelling. The personal lives of filmmaking teams rarely impact our ability to enjoy a story. However, when a film is so open about identity, it’s hard not to wonder. The film was written by Ethan Coen and his wife, Tricia Cooke. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a queer-created movie. Cooke has not shied away from her identity while doing press for the film, specifying in interviews that she does identify as queer and that she and Coen have anything but a traditional partnership.

Overall Review Of Drive-Away Dolls

My final review of Drive-Away Dolls is that if you’re the right audience, you’ll have a grand time. It’s not anything life-changing, and I probably won’t be thinking about it in ten years. But the short runtime is more than enjoyable enough, and it gave me more than enough laughs to leave happy. If you’re looking for something new, Drive-Away Dolls is a good pick for your weekend outing. 

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Drive-Away Dolls Review - A New Kind of Coen Movie
  • Acting - 10/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 9/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6.5/10
  • Watchability - 6/10
  • Rewatchability - 4/10
User Review
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About Meghan

Film & Television & Fanfiction Writer | Mental Health Worker | Cat Mom