The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | Save a horse, ride with the ‘Drive-Away Dolls’

Photo courtesy of IMDb
Movie poster of Drive-Away Dolls.

Rating: 8/10


The girls who get it, get it, and the girls who don’t, don’t. 

“Drive-Away Dolls” is a comedy road film centered around Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), two friends whose road trip south takes an unexpected turn when mobsters begin chasing after them in search of a briefcase in their unknowing possession.

Based on the small synopsis, this might seem like just another road trip flick. However, not even five minutes into the movie, audiences will understand that’s not the case.

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While “Drive-Away Dolls” uses quintessential elements from road trip pictures, it ultimately revitalizes the genre. The tagline — “A story of two ladies going south” — creates an expectation for the movie that the film ultimately delivers on. 

Directed by Ethan Coen of the Coen brothers — the filmmaking duo behind classics like “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski” and “Raising Arizona” — “Drive-Away Dolls” is only the second film directed by Coen alone, which he calls “filthy fun” after 2022’s documentary “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind.”

Like most of the Coens’ movies, “Drive-Away Dolls,” is set in the American South — specifically, in Tallahassee, Florida. Of course, this sets up multiple jokes about the setting.

Qualley plays Jamie, a free spirit with a thick Southern accent, and it’s so funny it works. 

Qualley is best known for the TV show “Maid” and the movies “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Nice Guys.” Most prominently, perhaps, she’s known for being the muse behind Lana del Rey’s “Margaret.” 

Opposite her is Viswanathan, the “straight man” to the eccentric Jamie. Viswanathan, who will star in Marvel’s upcoming film “The Thunderbolts,” keeps up with Qualley throughout the movie without missing a beat.

The duo has surprising chemistry, an odd couple that makes the twists and quips more enjoyable. Although the film relies a bit on absurdist comedy, it manages to pull off an enticing story without taking itself too seriously. 

What makes “Drive-Away Dolls” captivating is exactly that — the movie has fun with itself. There’s no male romantic interest, as both Jamie and Marian are lesbians, and it’s anything but afraid about sex. Although this might not be on the Letterboxd Four Favorites of Coen’s “No Country for Old Men” fans, it invites new audiences to enjoy an off-the-wall story.

The ensemble cast works wonders, with each oddball character adding more to Jamie and Marian’s wacky adventures.

Pedro Pascal is featured — or at least part of him is, take that as you will. Matt Damon plays a Republican senator convincingly well. Beanie Feldstein is Jamie’s cop ex-girlfriend, who is clearly not over their breakup. There’s even a fierce little chihuahua. This movie has it all.

Another major part of what makes “Drive-Away Dolls” work so well is the soundtrack. Whenever not distracted by the action happening on screen, audiences are treated to various cuts, from Funkadelic to Linda Ronstadt.

The movie captures a particular aesthetic with the set on the eve of Y2K, which does not take from its timelessness. There’s a magic aura that envelops the film from start to finish that will leave audiences on the edge of their seat and probably wondering if they’re hallucinating.

“Drive-Away Dolls,” although not family movie night material by any means, is a refreshing and truly fun film different from anything on the silver screen. As the movie itself says: “Buckle up!”


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