Comfortable and Furious

Drive Away Dolls

Rated: I for Immature

The Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) are known for their quirky, darkly comedic movies. Perhaps more than that, they are known for making movies as a pair. While they don’t make blockbuster type films, you have probably seen at least one of their films and remember something specific about that film. A dude in a bowling alley, Brad Pitt doing a funny dance, Javier Bardem’s bolt pistol, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” a wood chipper. I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered which Coen thought up which elements in their films. Now that Ethan has gone off on his own with his solo debut of Drive-Away Dolls, I think I know the answer.

The synopsis for Drive-Away Dolls is “In search of a fresh start, two women embark on an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee, Florida. However, things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals along the way.” Those are certainly words in a sentence and a couple of them even accurately summarize the film. Two women, Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), do indeed go on a road trip to Tallahassee. But they are not searching for a fresh start, it isn’t impromptu, and it doesn’t go awry because of inept criminals. Oh – and Jamie and Margaret are lesbians that do lesbian things. Let’s try that synopsis again – “Ethan Coen’s horny 14-year-old boy fantasy of what lesbians do and also throw in some goofy criminals to make it feel more Coen-y.” There. Fixed it.

I’m confident now that Ethan is the mastermind behind such Coen movie elements as the wood chipper scene in Fargo. Drive-Away Dolls opens with a similarly grisly scene involving a cork-screw, a knife, two thumbs, and Pedro Pascal. Santos (Pascal) is supposed to be meeting someone at a restaurant and is clutching a silver briefcase like it contains whatever was in Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase in Pulp Fiction. That someone is a no-show and Pascal ends up trapped in an alley by the restaurant’s cook and his utensils. This scene appeared to be setting the tone of the film and my curiosity was piqued.

The next scene opens with a woman screaming in ecstasy, her large breasts filling the screen. A phone rings and Jamie’s head emerges from between the woman’s legs. I’m not trying to be gratuitous here, but Ethan Coen sure seemed to be. Remember, these two scenes are how this film begins. That’s not to say the scenes don’t have a purpose. The briefcase is the MacGuffin of the film, instantly becoming the only thing the audience cares about. We have to know what’s in the briefcase. And what better way is there to distract the audience from that thought than boobs and oral sex? Seriously, what’s in that case?

The movie then stumbles into its premise. Jamie’s girlfriend Sukie (Beanie Feldstein) – who isn’t the screaming breasts we saw – breaks up with her over Jamie’s promiscuity, so Jamie hijacks her friend Marian’s planned road trip to visit Marian’s aunt. Jamie tells her about a service called drive-away, where they can pay to drive a car to a destination for a third-party. Is this a real thing? I don’t know. What’s in the briefcase?

As is typical of Coen flicks, a mix-up occurs and a trio of heavies (Colman Domingo, Joey Slotnick, C.J. Wilson) sets about tracking down the girls in order to recover the case (which is in the trunk of the car for…reasons). And, as is also typical of Coen flicks, some of the characters have diarrhea of the mouth. The only time Jamie stops talking is when someone else’s body part is in her mouth. Not to be outdone, one of the heavies, Arliss (Slotnick), spends the entire film berating his partner Flint (Wilson) and arguing at him (Flint rarely says a word). While there are some funny lines of dialogue, they are mostly surrounded by rambling. Just because something isn’t naked or bleeding, doesn’t mean it’s not gratuitous.

Speaking of which, are lesbians obsessed with penises? Do they all have at least two dildos in their homes? Do they have make-out parties in their basements with each other? Do they invite other random girls they meet in road-side diners to these make-out parties? Did Ethan Coen watch a porno and think it was non-fiction? Judging by Drive-Away Dolls, Coen did and they do. But they don’t have pillow fights in their underwear. Let’s not get carried away.

If this review seems a little bit all over the place, that’s how the movie felt. It’s about a couple of guys trying to retrieve a briefcase with something valuable in it…unless it’s really about two girls discovering their feelings for each other because Jamie decided her purpose in life was to get Marian laid (this is seriously Jamie’s goal for the first two acts of the movie). At one moment, the lead heavy, Chief (Domingo), orders Flint and Arliss to go to a new location, the next moment Marian is being arrested for walking at night. And if you were hoping for a generous amount of screen time for Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal, keep hoping because they are in the movie for about thirty seconds. The only real conclusion I can draw from this film is that Joel Coen is the mature brother and keeps Ethan in check when they are working together. If Joel were involved in Drive-Away Dolls, I think the contents of the briefcase would have been very different.

Rating: Ask for eight dollars back and for Ethan to grow up a little.







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