"Drive-Away Dolls" is slight but a zippy, bawdy, and silly goof

Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

"Drive-Away Dolls" is a very Coen brother-y movie with only one brother attached. Ethan Coen, the other Coen who didn’t make "The Tragedy of Macbeth," goes solo this time with queer wife, co-writer, and editor Tricia Cooke in what is their lesbian road movie. From screwball comedy to crime-caper thriller, "Drive-Away Dolls" swerves between genres in lively fashion, and it’s a slight but zippy, bawdy, and chaotically silly goof. 

Set in pre-Y2K 1999, the film begins with an “important” case that will eventually get into the wrong hands. From there, we meet two Philadelphia friends who are lesbians but platonic: the uptight pencil-pusher Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) and coarse thrill-seeker Jamie (Margaret Qualley). After Jamie cheats on her cop girlfriend Sukie (a fiercely funny Beanie Feldstein), she decides to get out of town, and Marian is going with her. En route to Tallahassee, they purchase a drive-away car, but wouldn’t you know it, that special case is in the trunk of this Dodge Aries and some bad men want it back. Even if the goons don’t find the goods from these broads, at least Jamie and Marian have explored every dyke bar along the way. 

A shaggy-dog yarn with an offbeat, absurdist energy, "Drive-Away Dolls" may not mean much in the morning, but it’s a helluva lot of fun—and often very funny—while it’s happening. Coen’s solo direction is exuberant with groovy, unpredictable scene transitions (wipes, dissolves, you name it) and psychedelic flourishes (some involving Miley Cyrus) with a payoff that should just be discovered.

How wonderful that we finally live in a world where Margaret Qualley leads a major film release. Compared to her other performances (particularly her tremendous TV work in "The Leftovers" and "Maid"), this is a broad comic performance controlled with sharp timing, and Qualley is fully committed to let the character of Jamie just be Jamie. Pairing Qualley with the expertly deadpan Geraldine Viswanathan turns out to be a real treat. Everyone is game, but even the supporting cast is unimpeachable—Pedro Pascal, Matt Damon, Colman Domingo, and Bill Camp—even if some roles are fleeting. Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: B

Focus Features released "Drive-Away Dolls" (84 min.) in theaters on February 23, 2024.