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drive-away dolls

★★★

starring: margaret qualley, geraldine viswanathan, colman domingo, and beanie feldstein

REVIEWER: lyall carter

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 is a first on a number of levels for Ethan Coen. First time directing a feature film outside of the Oscar-winning, cult-classic making partnership with his brother Joel and his first solo feature film directing gig. While Drive-Away Dolls is punctuated with great moments, there is something about its quirkiness that makes it slightly less accessible. 

 

Written by Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke, this comedy caper follows Jamie, an uninhibited free spirit bemoaning yet another breakup with a girlfriend, and her demure friend Marian who desperately needs to loosen up. In search of a fresh start, the two embark on an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee, but things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals along the way.

 

Drive-Away Dolls has a quirkiness that is reminiscent of a B-grade noir from yesteryear: a mystery wrapped up in odd characters and even odder happenings punctuated by explicit sex and violence. 

 

And in all of that, you can’t help but think that there is a mode of operating here: chuck a whole lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Unfortunately, a lot of it doesn’t. Not that it's bad necessarily, just that it doesn’t seem to serve the development of the characters or to push the narrative forward. 

 

But what works really well are the two lead characters Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan). There is something here in their different but equally endearing vulnerabilities that is worthy of exploration especially with how well in both actresses embody their parts. With some of the unnecessary elements removed from proceedings, focusing instead on the relationship between Jamie and Marian in the midst of the murder mystery chaos, this could have been a really special film.  

 

While Drive-Away Dolls is punctuated with great moments, there is something about its quirkiness that makes it slightly less accessible. 

★★★

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