Drive-Away Dolls

Representing Ethan Coen’s directorial feature debut without his filmmaking brother Joel, Drive-Away Dolls aims to take viewers on a wild, comic road trip, yet ends up stranding us in the cinematic equivalent of a scenic overlook without the scenery.

Set in 1999, it’s a story of two women, both lesbians – yes, that’s important, Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan, Blockers) and Jamie (Margaret Qualley, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), hitting the road together as they head from the east coast to Tallahassee, Florida, hedging their bets on a fun excursion to get away from personal turmoil.

"even as a silly romantic comedy, it’s as shallow as it is forgettable"

Jamie is an uninhibited free spirit who was just kicked out of the apartment she shares with her now ex-girlfriend, and is ready to let her freak flag fly. Marian is a no-nonsense, straight-laced goody-two-shoes who hopes a road trip will do her some good.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the shady car rental outfit mistakenly gives them a car that’s been earmarked for nefarious purposes. What begins as a freewheeling pleasure ride, quickly stalls into an underwhelming trail of contrived chaos when they cross paths with a pair of bumbling goons and their slippery boss who wants a mysterious briefcase hidden in the car’s trunk.

Coen, who co-writes with editor wife Tricia Cooke attempts to infuse this caper with a giddy spontaneity reminiscent of such ‘60s cult classics as Motorpsycho and Bad Girls Gone to Hell. Yet the attempted charm never quite ignites thanks to the confusing and shoddy narrative that bounces all over the place. Proof that quirk and charisma alone will only take a film so far.

Viswanathan and Qualley, intended to be the engines driving this comedy caper, misfire often when it comes to chemistry. Their characters’ relationships are aspirational at best, with Marian’s uptight anxiety clashing against Jamie’s freewheeling anarchy, and never in a way that becomes a believable romance or genuine human connection. We must believe in the authenticity of their relationship if we’re to buy into the entire premise, but unfortunately we don’t. Their characters are mere sketches with little depth, portrayed with broad strokes rather than as nuanced individuals. Wacky? Yes. Memorable? No.Drive-Away Dolls

Drive-Away Dolls is interspersed with goopy, psychedelic interstitial scenes which, instead of calling back to’60s B-movies, stick out like bizarre appendages, further muddying the film’s narrative. The goofy, acid-fueled visuals feel more like desperation than brilliant design. They are cool and funky, but just don’t belong here. Yet another example of the disjointed filmmaking. 

The subplot involving Sukie (Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart), as Jamie's cop ex-girlfriend, also falls flat. She drifts in and out of the storyline like a forgotten thought, never able to anchor herself meaningfully amid the film's whackadoodle meanderings. The film also features Matt Damon and Miley Cyrus in oddly out-of-place roles.

To its credit, Drive-Away Dolls, originally titled Drive-Away Dykes, is bold and in your face, as it aims for playful and cute. It’s easy to see what they were going for, but it, sadly, ends up senseless and uninspiring. There are fleeting moments of humor, but even those are more reflexive chuckles than hearty laughter. The film's admirable stabs at being risqué and audacious are undercut by a lack of clear direction and a script that needed a few more rounds of revisions.

Drive-Away Dolls ultimately plays like a sloppy exploitation B-movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However even as that, it never quite delivers on the slap-dash fun it promises. Whereas Diablo Cody’s recent Lisa Frankenstein is similar in quirk and wit, it is never quite as smart as it thinks it is, and Drive-Away Dolls never even tries to be smart. But, even as a silly romantic comedy, it’s as shallow as it is forgettable. It's a cinematic road trip where the excitement has dwindled long before the closing credits roll.

2/5 stars

Film Details

Drive-Away Dolls

MPAA Rating: R.
84 mins
: Ethan Coen
Ehtan Coen, Tricia Cooke
Margaret Qualley; Geraldine Viswanathan; Beanie Feldstein
: Comedy | Action
A Story of Two Ladies Going South.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I've had it with love. I don't believe it's relevant to the 21st century lesbian."
Theatrical Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 23, 2024
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: Jamie regrets her breakup with her girlfriend, while Marian needs to relax. In search of a fresh start, they embark on an unexpected road trip to Tallahassee. Things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals.


Drive-Away Dolls