Drive-Away Dolls (2024)
Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 24 min.

Release Date: February 23rd, 2024 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ethan Coen Actors: Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Joey Slotnick, C.J. Wilson, Bill Camp, Annie Gonzalez, Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal

 


 

A

As the year 2000 rapidly approaches, prudish bookworm Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) decides to leave Philadelphia behind and head to sunny, calm Tallahassee to live with her Aunt Ellis. Having just been dumped by her girlfriend, the wild, free-spirited, and polar-opposite Jamie (Margaret Qualley) decides that she and Marian should book a drive-away vehicle and share in the adventures down the coast to Florida – with a few pit stops at notable lesbian bars and hangouts to help the shier girl shed some of her inhibitions. But when they secure a Dodge Aries intended for someone else, complete with cargo both horrific and scandalous, the two girls end up in an unforgettable road trip filled with stolen property, vicious thugs, jail stints, Henry James, and the never-ending pursuit of pleasure.

A corkscrew to the neck comically transitions to throes of ecstasy as two girls get down to business. Yet it’s simply not that funny. When violence is too bloody and mean-spirited, it’s difficult to unearth levity; meanwhile, sex here isn’t inherently humorous, regardless of pronounced vociferosity. Many of the characters are depicted as cartoonish and over-the-top, which further drives a wedge between the moments of darker realism and airy lightheartedness. This attempt at – and failure of – producing laughs tends to sum up the bulk of “Drive-Away Dolls”: it tries so frantically to come across as quirky and witty that it only amplifies the effort, not any fleeting success. It utterly reeks of desperation.

“We don’t know a lot of men.” Odd, overactive screen wipes, paired with acid-trip segues (no one onscreen is actually doing drugs, however) are comparable gimmicks to offer up visual curiosities. But once again, the actual happenings are banal. Rapid-fire dialogue overflowing with graphic, frank conversations about sexual adventures and the random scene of lesbian fantasies or oral sex or masturbation are generally lukewarm in this modern era of extreme desensitization to what was once edgy material. Nothing here stands out, especially to audiences familiar with Tarantino’s scripts, or even Wes Anderson’s candidly-penned verbal interchanges.

Once the main premise gets underway, it’s little more than a road trip movie merged with a sex comedy, quite a bit like so many ‘90s and ‘00s flicks about teen boys striving to get laid. As in those pictures, the formula of a promiscuous, seasoned, knowledgable mentor tutoring an inexperienced, reserved, virginal dweeb is clearcut (a weird parallel exists between two fixers as well, one being short-tempered and bumptious, the other calm and calculating). And similarly, they’ll get in over their heads in a heist-like conundrum (chased by goons who wave guns around) and given opportunities to demonstrate light heroism, all before figuring out whether or not the whole sex thing is truly what they wanted. Problematically, this terribly unoriginal concept is as inauthentic and exaggerated as Jamie’s Texas drawl, which comes and goes, interspersed with additives like “honey,” as if that somehow makes it bona fide. “Drive-Away Dolls” struggles to find an identity, instead appearing as if a bland blend of countless other projects.

“I saw this movie once …” Even the inclusion of a silver briefcase filled with mystery loot screams of unoriginality. As the premise departs more and more from sensibility (it’s absurd to think that the contents of the attache would ever be suitable as blackmail material, as it would be unrecognizable to the public), perhaps touching upon the works of Henry James (which are mentioned and seen aplenty, though a considerable amount of viewers will surely be entirely unfamiliar with the references – especially “The Europeans”), it continues to offer very little innovation. The love story at the center isn’t effective either; just because it uncommonly involves two women doesn’t make it ripe for cinema (both are more annoying than anything else). By the end, the entire collection of uninspired misadventures is as painfully unconvincing as that nagging southern accent.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10