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Review: Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

Directed by: Ethan Coen

Premise: Set in the 1990s, a pair of lesbian friends (Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan) take a road trip from Philadelphia to Florida. The trunk of their car contains a mysterious briefcase wanted by criminals.

What Works: Drive-Away Dolls is a dirty joke of a movie. The plot is mostly a caper story in which a pair of women unwittingly end up with a MacGuffin. It’s also a road trip story of an odd couple learning to cope with one another and the film’s biggest asset is the casting of Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan in the lead roles. The two of them make a likable on-screen pair. Qualley’s character is an impulsive mess whereas Viswanathan plays an organized and repressed woman. Qualley and Viswanathan bounce off one another, assisted by glib dialogue, and they are very funny. The road trip conceit allows Drive-Away Dolls to take side adventures as the women visit roadside attractions. The film is set in the 1990s, probably because the pre-digital era allows for the characters to get lost in a way that’s not possible in the age of cellphones and GPS. The travel stops take the story into some quirky locations with a distinct character; the film has a vivid sense of place. Drive Away Dolls has a goofy tone and the humor is very sexual. The whole picture has a tactile visual texture and the combination of elements makes Drive-Away Dolls a live action version of an adult comic strip.

What Doesn’t: Drive Away Dolls is not obviously a love story at first but it gradually reveals itself as such. The two lead characters are likable and their friendship is credible but their romance is not. These women have personalities that are so different that it’s inconceivable they would end up together. Drive Away Dolls was cowritten and directed by Ethan Coen whose films have often emphasized character over plot. That’s generally the case in Drive-Away Dolls and this story relies on a lot of coincidences especially in the way the villains track down the heroines. People show up in places for inexplicable reasons and the story takes a sudden violent turn that doesn’t make sense; the story and characters aren’t working up to that moment and it comes across as an attempt to inflate the length of the movie.  

Bottom Line: Drive-Away Dolls may not quite come together but there’s a lot in it to admire. Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan make a fun on-screen duo and the film is very funny in glib and raunchy ways.

Episode: #988 (March 17, 2024)