Drive-Away Dolls | Fresh Takes

Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.

Seb, Ethan, Jonathan, Izzie & Audrey

20 Mar 24

Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas. 

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Here are some Fresh Takes on Drive-Away Dolls. 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.

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Ethan, 22

Ethan lives in Exeter. He works as a field service engineer for South West Water.

Ethan says...

In a time when many films leave me feeling either asleep or bewildered, Drive-Away Dolls was a refreshing reminder of why I love going to the cinema: to be entertained. It kept me hooked from start to finish, serving up laughs, thrills, and unexpected twists along the way. If you're looking for a wild and unforgettable ride, Drive-Away Dolls is a trip worth taking.

Directed by Ethan Coen, whose classic film The Big Lebowski holds a special place in my heart, Drive-Away Dolls feels like Lebowski's lesbian sibling, with its simple yet intricately woven plot lines split up by the odd sexy psychedelic interlude.

For me, what sets Drive-Away Dolls apart is its rich and authentic portrayal of queer characters. From the charmingly free-spirited Jamie to the reserved yet endearing Marion, each character is brought to life with depth and nuance, offering a refreshing departure from cookie-cutter stereotypes. The chemistry between Jamie and Marion is perfect, with their contrasting personalities providing ample fodder for hilarious conversations. The expertly crafted, witty dialogue adds a huge layer of richness to the narrative, with Jamie's raunchy southern charm contrasting Marion's deadpan demeanour, creating a delightful dynamic that had me giggling the whole way through. The whole script is a masterpiece, and you can tell it's been years in the making.

I would recommend Drive-Away Dolls to anyone seeking a quick, fun, and cheeky night at the cinema. Believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Seb, 24

Seb is a postgraduate drama student and escape room game host – a big lover of Lynch, Tarantino, and Edgar Wright, but whose favourite film may or may not be The LEGO Movie.

Seb says...

I have something quick to get off my chest: this is my first Coen movie. I can hear the movie fans amongst us gasp, but I am more than happy that Drive-Away Dolls is my first.

Drive-Away Dolls
doesn't wait around, pushing you full force into its plot with a grizzly opening (featuring my beloved Pedro Pascal) that sets up another surprising celebrity cameo towards the end. The film is filled with all the charming, iconic Coen tropes – it's rich with quirky deaths, characters and dialogue – but you'll quickly get acclimated to its world if, like me, this is your first. Our two leads, Jamie and Marian, are problematic yet charming, and you quickly find yourself rooting for them when they find themselves in a 'What's in the box?' moment even more surprising than the one in Seven.

Simply, what this film does is strap you into the driver's seat with a bantering duo and take you along on a journey that'll make you laugh, gasp, and double-take. You'll never have more fun!

Jonathan, 25

Engineer, music maker and film enthusiast with a love for creative and unique filmmaking. Find more reviews on TikTok @jonathanhlusic.

Jonathan says...
The Coen Brothers are one of the most acclaimed filmmaking duos of all time. The Tragedy of Macbeth from 2021, a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation, was Joel Coen's first film directed without his brother Ethan – Drive-Away Dolls, Ethan Coen's first film directed without Joel, exists on the polar opposite end of the Coen film spectrum: a fun road trip comedy.

Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan have a hilariously entertaining dynamic as a pair of lesbians driving from Philadelphia to Tallahassee. Unbeknownst to them, they are being hunted down by the equally funny pairing of Joey Slotnick and C. J. Wilson, and both duos encounter plenty of eccentric and entertaining characters along the way.

The Coen brothers have a unique skill for writing memorable characters, something Drive-Away Dolls continues, in a screenplay co-written by Ethan Coen and his editor and wife Tricia Cooke. There's something a bit off about the film's presentation that holds it back from reaching the heights of my favourite Coen films, though; the cinematography is definitely nowhere near the brilliant visuals of the brothers' collaborations with Roger Deakins on Fargo and No Country for Old Men.

Even if it isn't the most unique story, Drive-Away Dolls is still a fun time and doesn't overstay its welcome, with a short runtime that makes for an easy, enjoyable watch.

Izzie Curtis, 24

Izzie is a writer who loves film and food, but not at the same time. If you want to chat about either find her on Instagram @izziemaecurtis or for less thought-out reviews on Letterboxd @izziemae.

Izzie says...

While most film lovers will have heard of the Coen Brothers, a name they may not know is Tricia Cooke: an editor on their films since 1990's Miller's Crossing, and also Ethan's wife. The couple have teamed up to bring us Drive-Away Dolls, a hilariously dirty road movie-stroke-crime caper led by a pair of lesbian best friends.

At its core, the film is a cat-and-mouse story where the mouse is completely oblivious to the danger at hand. Wild child Jamie (a stand-out performance by Margaret Qualley) is too busy chasing after girls and dragging uptight Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) along with her to care about the men following their trail. Although the film is quintessentially Coen, with its mysterious briefcase and unpredictable plot, Cooke's writing brings a refreshing disregard for the dudes that have dominated the brother's previous films. Usually, we see 'man vs. the indifferent universe' in their films, but in Drive-Away Dolls, it's 'men vs. themselves, while the women are off indulging in each other's company'.

The film revels in low-budget B-movie tropes of the 1970s – think psychedelic cutaways and steamy scenes of all shapes and sizes – and the famous faces in supporting roles had the audience laughing out loud at their absurdity. You can't help but have fun on the ride-along with these girls, and as the potential first in a trilogy of lesbian-focused films from the pair, there are definitely more camp escapades to come.

Audrey Yeung, 18

Audrey is a writer, musician, and aspiring journalist/editor. You can read more of her film reviews on Letterboxd, and her opinions in The Student Newspaper.

Audrey says...

After a hiatus and creative parting from the 'Coen Brothers,' I had doubts over Drive-Away Dolls – a movie that not only marks a new direction for Ethan Coen, as a solo project with his wife Tricia Cooke, but is also a sapphic road trip comedy. I was quickly proven wrong.

Drive-Away Dolls
seamlessly balances comedy and craft. The script is quick and witty, featuring creative one-liners, snappy comedy, and highly quotable, memorable moments that make for immersive conversation. This, along with psychedelic visuals reminiscent of a kaleidoscope and the chance to witness A-list actors Pedro Pascal, Matt Damon, and Colman Domingo stepping into the comedic spotlight, all contribute to shaping the enjoyable absurdity this movie boasts.

While Margaret Qualley's versatility as an actor was already known from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Sanctuary, her co-star Geraldine Viswanathan stands out from the crowd. As Marion, her "serious" and awkward persona is endearing, achieving subtle humour that supports the film. Her perspective allows for the audience's point of view to be represented while offering a refreshing and quiet humility in a world of chaos – especially in stark contrast to Qualley's brazen Jamie – which enhances the film's situational hilarity.

Alongside masterful camera technique and hypnotising editing, the movie is a testament to how a light-hearted, comedic composition can be achieved without the need to sacrifice the seasoned experience of its director. So, experience Drive-Away Dolls at Picturehouse Cinemas for yourself. There will never be a moment of boredom; I guarantee it.

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