Published on February 29th, 2024 | by Branden Zavaleta

Drive-Away Dolls – Film Review

Reviewed by Branden Zavaleta on the 27th of February 2024
Universal/Focus Features presents a film by Ethan Coen
Written by Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke
Produced by Tim Bevan, Ethan Coen, Tricia Cooke, Eric Fellner, Robert Graf, and Liz Tan
Starring Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp, and Matt Damon
Cinematography Ari Wegner
Edited by Tricia Cooke
Music by Carter Burwell
Rating: MA15+
Running Time: 84 minutes
Release Date: the 22nd of February 2023

The Coen brothers splitting up marked a dramatic event for film fans. However, seeing them make their own films has proven eye-opening. Joel directed the elegant, dramatic, yet cold Macbeth (2021). Now Ethan’s new solo film is the exact opposite. Written alongside his wife and editor, Tricia Cooke, Drive-Away Dolls is a gonzo road trip movie with two lesbians looking for love. Think The Big Lebowski (1998) meets Thelma & Louise (1991) with a surprise smattering of smut.

If Joel is the sensitive artist of the two, Ethan is the life-loving hippy. The balance the brothers struck on their previous movies is exactly what made them Oscar-winning directors. It also means that without Joel, Drive-Away Dolls won’t be an instant classic, but maybe still a cult feature.


The film is about Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) who works in an office, is hit on by her colleagues and is living a generally dull life. Her best friend, Jamie (Margaret Qualley), is the exact opposite. She is totally carefree, easily excitable, and more than a little sexually liberated. When they both break up with their girlfriends, they decide to blow off some steam by taking a drive-away car down to Tallahassee. They soon discover the car was meant for a band of criminals. Their leisurely trip through dive bars and musty hotels becomes a cat-and-mouse chase with a mysterious briefcase at the centre of it all.

Drive-Away Dolls is a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, not even a little bit. It’s an off-colour comedy where everyone is a goofball or a bumbling rube. The goons constantly bungle the chase, Jamie is always talking about cunnilingus and her vulva, and even the straitlaced Marian can’t stop her attitude from getting her into trouble. It’s a lot of fun but like Margaret Qualley’s accent in this it’s also a little one-note. It’s silly chaos after silly chaos. They go to a lesbian slumber party and end up kissing each other, Mariam walks home and gets arrested, and then there’s a dream sequence where she spies on her naked neighbour. They might be chased by killers, but you never get the feeling that they’re actually in danger because something wacky is sure to happen and they’ll be fine.

At 84 minutes, it’s an easy watch. It is a well-made little rollercoaster with some quirky characters. Yet from a superstar director like Ethan Coen, it feels lazy. The reason the Coen brothers split up was so Ethan break from the hard work of making their impeccable films, so this makes sense. He’s letting the actors make more choices. Viswanathan is practically playing her character from Miracle Workers (2019), and Qualley is clearly having fun with her silly accent. The elements don’t come together perfectly meaning it certainly isn’t on par with No Country for Old Men (2007).

Drive-Away Dolls might be a fun jaunt through the American South, but it’s not the best that these Oscar winners can produce. Thankfully, Joel and Ethan are already planning a new film together. In the meantime, this is a raunchy comedy made for fun, and is destined to find its place in their vaunted filmography alongside The Ladykillers (2004).

Drive-Away Dolls – Film Review Branden Zavaleta

Summary: Drive-Away Dolls might be a fun jaunt through the American South, but it’s not the best that these Oscar winners can produce.



About the Author'

Branden Zavaleta is a freelance games writer from Australia. He loves Breath of the Wild, Disco Elysium and Dragon Quest VIII. And aside from games, he loves hiking, playing tennis and a visit to the movie theatre.

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