Drive-Away Dolls


Sometimes you just can’t beat brotherly love. It’s certainly held the Coen’s in good stead for the 18 films to date that they’ve made together since 1984’s Blood Simple.

But in 2021 Joel decided to do the unthinkable, by going it alone and directing the somewhat average The Tragedy of Macbeth for Apple TV+.

Now it’s the other brother’s turn, with Ethan directing his first solo feature outing, with its focus, ironically enough, being on a sisterly love of sorts.

boom reviews Drive-Away Dolls
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Love can be harsh sometimes, as Jamie (Margaret Qualley) finds out when her lover Sukie (Beanie Feldstein) kicks her out of their apartment after learning of Jamie’s infidelity.

Jamie, now homeless, hears that a friend is planning a road trip, and it just might be what she needs right now. So she hooks up with straight-laced Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), as they pick up a car from a Drive-Away joint, with a vehicle that has just come in needing to go to their destination of Tallahassee, so off they set.

Not long after, and some heavy types enter the Drive-Away requesting the car for... Tallahassee; so it seems the vehicle didn’t go to the appropriate drivers, and they’re a little on the mad side, as the car has two items in it that they are keen to get their hands on.

So with Jamie and Marian on the road, little do they know that they are now being hunted down by a criminal element, who are determined to get their items back.

boom reviews Drive-Away Dolls
I don't care about the crime, just tell me if you brought the donuts back.

Immediately after watching this, you can’t help but feel that it’s obviously missing something – and that’s another Coen brother. The script, co-written by Ethan is half-baked, on the safest of road trips with very few highlights.

It’s embarrassingly clunky in places, such as the relationship between its two protagonists, that just doesn’t develop organically. At first it’s easy to blame the casting of Viswanathan, whose performance is just lost in the formidable shadow of Qualley’s, who shines superbly throughout, with a role so different to her drama-heavy turn in the mini-series Maid, showing her formidable range. But the truth is, Viswanathan’s character, like many others, is poorly written, which is criminal considering Ethan had a hand in it.

The only other to come out of this well is Feldstein, who deserved more screen time as the betrayed lover.

The script is woefully disappointing, with a narrative that makes for a bumpy ride from beginning to end. You could make an argument for it being brave with its many lesbian characters, but with many of them under-developed, or just plain stereotyped, it really doesn’t do the LBGTQ+ community any favours.

And even the directing feels as if it were undertaken by a novice, who just came out of film school having seen a few early Edgar Wright films.

In truth, if it had come from someone else, making a debut say, it would show certain promise, but seeing as it’s from Ethan Coen, it’s difficult not to see it as anything other than a failure.

This is a road trip then that it’s safe to say won’t have you suffering with any kind of FOMO if missed.

we give this two out of five