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Review: ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ is a queer trip down a funny road

‘Drive-Away Dolls’ is a lesbian comedy in which two women unknowingly carry invaluable treasure

A scene from 'Drive-Away Dolls'
A scene from 'Drive-Away Dolls' courtesy of Focus Features
A scene from 'Drive-Away Dolls' courtesy of Focus Features

‘Drive-Away Dolls’ is a lesbian comedy in which two women unknowingly carry invaluable treasure on their cross-country adventure.

Road trip movies are usually entertaining because they involve travelling to different locations, meeting a variety of people and learning something about one’s self along the way. The stakes are increased when the travellers are pursued by a nefarious outfit determined to intercept them before they reach their destination. In this case, the screen time is split between the adventure and the chase as the tourists take in the local offerings and the trackers follow their trail. In Drive-Away Dolls, a couple of women decide to get away from it all, but unknowingly accept a vehicle with contents stowed inside that were not meant for their eyes.

Compared to her friends, Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) might be considered boring — she always dresses conservatively, speaks correctly with little inflection, and defines fun as a night in with a good book. Jamie (Margaret Qualley) is her complete opposite – outgoing, comfortable with her sexuality and overtly Southern with a pocket full of idioms. After some inevitable drama, they are both in need of an escape. So, they decide to head to Tallahassee by driving a vehicle for a car delivery service. Unbeknownst to them, a mix up at the office gives them a car meant for a criminal element that is now following them so they can retrieve their goods from the trunk.

This is a lot like other road trip movies about two complete opposites hitting the road together, except the protagonists are lesbians. Marian is straight-laced and reserved, while Jamie is a cowboy looking for a girl in every city. Unsurprisingly, their differing personalities are a frequent source of tension, as they disagree over everything from the route they should take to motel room etiquette to how to handle their troubling predicament. But the power of their nonsensical bond eventually prevails, allowing them to remain friends and work together to find a solution with the reluctant help of Jamie’s angry yet capable ex, Sukie (Beanie Feldstein).

The villains in the story somewhat mirror the women they’re chasing as they too have contrasting personalities — one is more old school, busting heads and asking questions later, while the other believes you attract more flies with honey, relying on his words rather than his fists (C.J. Wilson and Joey Slotnick, respectively). Their hunt is haphazard and plagued by amusing blunders as they’re repeatedly thwarted by women not even aware they’re on the run — a fact that doesn’t escape their fairly patient boss (Colman Domingo). Yet nothing could prepare audiences for what is in the briefcase people are willing to kill for, though the contents are eventually revealed — unlike a mysterious glow from 1994 that’s still a mystery.

This definitely has some of co-writer and director Ethan Coen’s flair for intricate dialogue, unique characters, surprising cameos and unusual circumstances generally seen in movies created with his brother, Joel. But be warned: it’s far more outrageous than his typical understated fair and may not appeal to the same audiences — which is probably also why they changed the title from the more aptly queer, “Drive-Away Dykes.”

Director: Ethan Coen
Starring: Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan and Beanie Feldstein

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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