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MOVIES: Drive-Away Dolls – Review

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The Coen Brothers have been on different paths for a while. Joel Coen gave us the towering definitive Macbeth adaption The Tragedy of Macbeth for AppleTV+, and now it’s Ethan Coen – “directed by A Coen Brother”, the Drive-Away Dolls trailer teases, and we’re back in Burn After Reading territory, just like that – for a caper that modernizes Thelma & Louise for a fearsome firecracker of a queer drama focusing on Jamie and Mariam, two best friends, who find themselves on a road trip to Tallahassee that winds up in trouble when they inherit a mysterious package meant for a group of inept criminals.

It’s classic Coens caper; the inciting incident picked up by a series of misunderstandings. After another breakup with a girlfriend; Jamie agrees she’s done with love, and gatecrashes Mariam’s impromptu road trip. The car they both hire is a dodge – but a mistake by Curly, the car-hire owner, leads to plenty of trouble for them both and a duo of hitmen after them. It’s a comedy of errors – with the deadpan expressions of Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanthan doing much of the heavy lifting. The movie itself is aided by the b-movie sexploitation that avoids having the leery gaze of male directors; despite Coen being in his 60s making the film, and it gives both Mariam and Jamie a sense of agency. The sleaze that dominates Drive-Away Dolls makes its status as a major motion picture with a wide blockbuster release these days all the more impressive, aided by its offbeat 80 minute runtime the film doesn’t really cater to a need to be self-important. It isn’t trying to be “the definitive queer film”; it’s just trying to be a film – sex and nudity on screen is seen in a way that fits the vibes that the film is going for without feeling invasive, with the end result being a 70s drama set in the 90s made in the 2020s, that allows for a truly oddball experience.

If you go in expecting something serious you’re in the wrong place; but Drive-Away Dolls delights because of its lack of serious. The contrast between Marian and Jaime is instant from the word go, Jaime is a free spirit, Mariam is buttoned-up, and despite all the supporting cast – Matt Damon – whose role in the third act really elevates the story to brazen new heights, Pedro Pascal, Colmon Domingo, Joey Slotnick, Beanie Feldstein, comic genius, Bill Camp and CJ Wilson – this is the Qualley and Viswanthan show, both actors two of the most talented of their generation in one of the most fun films of the year so far. Its slow start ramps up the tension as it progresses – culminating in a truly bizarre and offbeat ending that will leave you in stitches. A riot.

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