Drive-Away Dolls Blu-ray Review

3.5 Stars Good but not great crime caper
Drive-Away Dolls Screenshot Review

Drive-Away Dolls is a funny, occasionally violent crime drama that’s rooted in pre-millennium lesbian culture and is a refreshing approach. It is, in essence, a lesbian crime drama, in full embrace of its B-movie ambitions that’s more smiles than guffaws. It smooths the edges of its violence, which is uncommon for something you find in a Coen brother film, and doesn’t entirely succeed, but succeeds enough to be worth a look.

Drive-Away Dolls (2024)
Released: 23 Feb 2024
Rated: R
Runtime: 84 min
Director: Ethan Coen
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Cast: Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein
Writer(s): Ethan Coen, Tricia Cooke
Plot: Jamie regrets her breakup with her girlfriend, while Marian needs to relax. In search of a fresh start, they embark on an unexpected road trip to Tallahassee. Things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept crim...
IMDB rating: 5.6
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 23 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard Blu-ray with sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 04/23/2024
MSRP: $29.98

The Production: 3.5/5

“That is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m a cop!”

Fresh from a regretful breakup with her angry girlfriend, Jamie (Margaret Qualley) decides to hitch a ride with her uptight friend, Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), who’s had enough of things and wants, and needs, a fresh start. Headed to Tallahassee, Florida, they decide to take a drive-away car, something you rent one way and they snag a car that was intended for where they wanted to go exactly. The trouble is, they’re mistaken for a couple of crooks who were planning to take the car and its vital cargo in the trunk to an important owner. Now, the crooks are on the young girls’ heels as they meander their way down the coast, living it up, getting into uninhibited encounters, and learning a little something about themselves along the way.

Directed by Ethan Coen, going solo here from his turns directing films with his brother, and co-written by his wife, Tricia Cooke, Drive-Away Dolls is almost there. It’s almost trippy. It’s almost hilarious. It’s almost a compelling plot. But it’s missing a plot and script polish, a tightening of the characters that would make them as memorable as the movie’s director Ethan Coen makes with his brother (and it seems unfair to compare to his duel directing outings here). It lacks an undercurrent of true drama to sweeten the humor and deepen the charm.

While the film is a modest success, the cast is winning. Margaret Qualley is Jamie, the free-spirited, say-whatever-she-wants friend who delights in being likably antagonistic and she drives a lot of the funny. Geraldine Viswanathan’s portrayal of Marian is equally delightful. While her character arc is never surprising, she manages it with conviction and she has the audience pulling for her to break free, safely, from her rigidity. Joey Slotnick and CJ Wilson are the two goons chasing after our protagonists and they enjoy some wry banter. Pulling the goon’s strings is Colman Domingo as The Chief. Domingo carries a welcome wit about his bad persona coupled with an adroit fastidiousness. Pedro Pascal puts in a fun performance, albeit very brief, at the start of the film (it’s purely comic), and Bill Camp just about steals the show with his performance as Curlie, owner of the Drive-away shop. Like Pascal, his appearance is brief, but it’s memorable. Then, we have Beanie Feldstein as the jilted and very persecutory ex-girlfriend of Jamie. She makes an impression. And finally, we have Matt Damon as Senator Gary Channel, an uptight conservative politician whose youthful shenanigans gave rise to the plot. It’s another brief performance but he lands it.

Drive-Away Dolls is entertaining but not entirely successful. More sexually explicit than you might expect, it enjoys a sense of sexual abandon as the characters either lean away from or lean into a sense of inhibition. The film serves as the first in a reported lesbian B movie trilogy. It’s short at just 83 minutes and never has time to overstay its welcome, and when the credits roll you find you want to spend more time with Jamie and Marian and their misadventures. You may just wish this film was a little better to kick off what could be a fun trilogy.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Framed at 1.85:1, Drive-Away Dolls is handsome on Blu-ray. Colors are warm, black levels are sufficiently sharp. Flesh tones appear natural throughout. Filmed with Arri Alexa 35 cameras at 4K (with 4K Digital Intermediate), this is a film that could have excelled on 4K disc, but the 1080p presentation is no slouch.

Audio: 4.5/5

The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track is healthy, with Carter Burwell’s score faring well in the front and surrounds. Dialogue is issue-free in the center channel. Car squeals, gunshots, sounds of crowds, and the trippy interstitials, fill the audio effectively.

Special Features: 2/5

A slight collection of special features, well under 10 minutes worth. It’s a film that begs for creator perspectives and insight, but that’s not to be found.

  • The Drive-Way Gang – Sit down with the cast and filmmakers of Drive-Way Dolls as they discuss their roles, getting into character, and the exciting cameo appearances.
  • Drive-Way Dolls: An Ethan and Tricia Project – Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke discuss what inspired them to write this story, why they waited 20 years to bring it to life, and what it was like working together on a project from start to finish for the first time.
  • Road Trip Essentials
  • Digital copy of the film

Overall: 3.5/5

Drive-Away Dolls is a funny, occasionally violent crime drama that’s rooted in pre-millennium lesbian culture and is a refreshing approach. It is, in essence, a lesbian crime drama, in full embrace of its B-movie ambitions that’s more smiles than guffaws. It smooths the edges of its violence, which is uncommon for something you find in a Coen brother film, and doesn’t entirely succeed, but succeeds enough to be worth a look.

Neil has been a member of the Home Theater Forum reviewing staff since 2007, approaching a thousand reviews and interviews with actors, directors, writers, stunt performers, producers and more in that time. A senior communications manager and podcast host with a Fortune 500 company by day, Neil lives in the Charlotte, NC area with his wife and son, serves on the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte Board of Directors, and has a passion for film scores, with a collection in the thousands.

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titch

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Kevin Oppegaard
I found this laugh-out-loud hilarious. Interesting to see, now that the Coen brothers have separated, which one was the one responsible for arch, brittle, highly rhythmic dialogue; wild blasts of extremely vulgar language and violently dopey comedy; cartoony accents; across-the-board great performances from actors willing to look insane and demented on camera and trusting the director to save them from being ridiculous; editing full of highly visible, playful flourishes. That was Ethan.
 
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