19th Jun2024

‘Drive Away Dolls’ Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp, Matt Damon | Written by Ethan Coen, Tricia Clarke | Directed by Ethan Coen

Directed by Ethan Coen, who co-wrote the script with his wife, Tricia Clarke, Drive-Away Dolls is a queer road movie-slash-crime caper anchored by a pair of delightful performances by co-leads Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan. The plot is admittedly slight and the jokes will almost certainly prove too puerile for some tastes, but it has attitude to spare and the fun characters carry it through.

Set in 1999, on the eve of Y2K, the film begins in Philadelphia, where Texan good-time-girl Jamie (Qualley) has just broken up with her hot-tempered cop lover Sukie (Beanie Feldstein). Needing to get out of town, Jamie jumps at the chance to accompany her strait-laced lesbian best friend Marian (Viswanathan) on a road trip to Tallahassee, Florida, so the pair head to a rental agency run by Curlie (Bill Camp) and pick up a drive-away car.

However, unbeknownst to Jamie and Marian, the car is carrying some special cargo that was meant to be picked up and transported by a shady criminal boss (Colman Domingo) and his two goons (Joey Slotnick and CJ Wilson). Oblivious to the fact that the crooks are in hot pursuit, Jamie finds diversions of her own, including trying to get her best friend laid and hooking up with an entire female football team.

Qualley is a joy to watch throughout, tearing through the film like a ball of fire and endowing her character with a streak of pure hedonism, while rattling off her motor-mouthed dialogue with a thick Texan twang. Viswanathan, in turn, makes a wonderfully downbeat contrast, squarely eschewing Jamie’s bar-hopping and bed-sharing in favour of a quiet night reading Henry James’ The Europeans in their motel room.

In addition, there’s strong comic support from Feldstein and the bickering relationship between Slotnick and Wilson’s characters is a lot of fun, though the likes of Matt Damon (as the intended recipient of the illicit cargo, a Republican senator) and Pedro Pascal (as the cargo’s original owner) are disappointingly under-used.

Marking his first narrative feature away from his brother, Coen directs with a decent amount of energy, even if it never hits the madcap heights of, say, Raising Arizona. Having said that, it has an exuberant sexuality that marks a new direction for a Coen Brothers movie, and there are some nice touches on that score, most notably a pair of erotic flashback sequences involving Marian’s sexual awakening, courtesy of a frequently naked next-door neighbour.

The main problem with Drive-Away Dolls is that the script isn’t as funny or as edgy as it thinks it is – the contents of the case (which it would be unfair to reveal here) may have their roots in the antics of a real-life person, but that doesn’t go anywhere interesting and the end result is a series of overly puerile jokes that never really land. On a less important, but similar note, it’s odd that the film goes to the trouble of establishing 1999 and the imminence of Y2K without paying that off in any particular way.

In short, this is worth seeing for the comic performances of the two leads and the 84-minute running time ensures that it never outstays its welcome, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s not quite the film it should have been. Good soundtrack though, plus an inspired pop star cameo, if you like that sort of thing.

Special Features:

  • Rigid Slipcase with soft touch finish
  • 3 x Theatrical Poster Art Cards
  • 32-Page Booklet
  • The Drive-Away Gang Featurette
  • Drive Away Dolls: An Ethan and Tricia Project
  • Road Trip Essentials

*** 3/5

The Drive Away Dolls: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is out now.

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