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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

REVIEW: ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ is the sapphic fever dream of the year

Photo courtesy of Working Title Films

Is it just me or has the road movie genre been desperate for more crime, lesbians and bizarre Miley Cyrus cameos? In all of its gritty glory, “Drive-Away Dolls” was the answer to my prayers.

Ethan Coen, known better as a Coen brother for the film legacy he’s built alongside his sibling Joel, returned to the director’s chair for his first narrative film since 2018’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in tandem with his partner Tricia Cooke, who edited the film and wrote alongside him.

The film is equal parts Coen and Cooke with a queer sex-comedy/caper combining their artistic sensibilities perfectly. “Drive-Away Dolls” is truly the cinematic lovechild of their non-traditional marriage. 

For its relatively short run-time of 84 minutes, a lot of narrative is packed into the film. Chaos ensues as a duo of lesbian friends, one unhinged and the other neurotic, embark on a spur-of-the-moment road trip down south to Tallahassee, Florida, with a suitcase in the back of their drive-away rental car left behind by a bumbling pair of criminals desperate to get it back.

Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan portrayed the lead ladies, Jamie and Marian, and played off each other perfectly. 

Jamie was based on Cooke herself and her experiences coasting around lesbian bars at the turn of the century. Jamie’s “Texan” accent was a campy Sandy Cheeks impression at best, a bit jarring, but as the film progressed, it stopped overshadowing the performance. It suited the character who was so cartoonishly flamboyant but in the hands of a less skilled actor I can see it falling apart quite easily . You can tell a lot of love was put into Jamie, and that worked aptly to balance her eccentricity with humanity and depth. 

Juxtaposing Jamie’s chaotic energy, I find Marian my favorite character in the film. “Drive-Away Dolls” was quite ridiculous, and bringing a high-strung, maladjusted persona into the script brought just the amount of common sense it needed. Her friendship with Jamie was incredibly adorable. The friends-to-lovers trope isn’t as common in queer media, and I think throwing it into a jam-packed story made it play out wonderfully.

I think the unseriousness of the film is what makes it ultimately charming to me. Both the editing and pacing were intense. Watching the movie, you had to be on your toes to follow the unconventional transitions between scenes and all of the seemingly random psychedelic sequences that would later unravel the mystery. It was engaging, and that’s all I want out of a movie at the end of the day. 

“Drive-Away Dolls” is not for everyone, observable as the mixed reviews roll in. Disappointment is inevitable, holding it up to peak-Coen brother filmography or the endearing sleaze of the B movie genre it homages.  In fact, “Drive-Away Dolls” is probably suited for very few people, and I’m one of them. It was a good time, and I loved it. 

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About the Contributors
Monique Bever
Monique Bever, Reporter
Monique Bever is a first-year reporter and photographer. She is a freshman majoring in philosophy. Monique has lived in Wichita for most of her life. She loves film, fashion, and her cat.
Sascha Harvey
Sascha Harvey, Opinion Editor
Sascha Harvey is the opinon editor for The Sunflower. A junior majoring in graphic design, this is Harvey's third year on staff and second year as a section editor. He is originally from Arkansas but has no accent to speak of (unless you listen really hard). The graphic design major enjoys covering feature stories and local news. Harvey uses he/him pronouns.

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  • M

    MeApr 6, 2024 at 12:48 am

    Dude. This movie sucked. Big time. I can’t believe I paid money to watch it