Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

The big draw for “Drive-Away Dolls” will be the director Ethan Coen for film buffs, and I say that because Ethan Coen spends an inordinate amount of time directing a movie that feels very Coen brothers lite. It has this flavor of a misplaced dark comedy from 2000 that might have paired on basic cable with “Nurse Betty.” It has all the hallmarks of a Coen Brothers movie after all. There are the quirky dysfunctional heroes, the quirky albeit vicious villains, some kind of spiritual journey or awakening, and a premise that devolves into immense chaos.

Jamie regrets her breakup with her girlfriend, while 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 criminals that want what’s in their rented vehicle.

It’s a shame because director Coen spends so much time trying to inject so many quirks and idiosyncratic plot elements to his film that he doesn’t seem to feel too confident in the cast. That’s too bad because “Drive-Away Dolls” does shine on occasion, and it does so because of the cast. In particular, there is Margaret Qualley who is cute as a button and insanely sexy, even in spite of lacking in the know how of comic timing or delivering decent one-liners. There’s also Beanie Feldstein who, in her small role, manages to make a big dent in “Drive-Away Dolls.” Ironically, she feels almost like Ethan Coen’s modern answer to Walter Sobchek, right down to the sub-plot involving a dog.

And she derives so much giggles and grins on her short time on screen. I also found Joey Slotnik and CJ Wilson damn funny in their short time on screen, as well. Geraldine Viswanathan is shockingly downplayed here, as is the usually charismatic Colman Domingo. The film itself is lacking in so many areas as it just seems to be going through the motions, even with its ability to squeeze in a ton of inexplicable celebrity cameos. “Drive-Away Dolls” takes so many unusual detours and bizarre segues and none of it ever really rose to the occasion to feel organic or remotely entertaining. I just didn’t care for any of the characters, and even when Coen finally pulls the veil down to fill us in on the big master plot, I greeted it mainly with a “That’s it?”

I gather Coen and co-writer Tricia Cooke spent so much time trying to build up to reactions from the audience, that the movie just feels kind of gimmicky when all is said and done. At the very least it’s sports a short run time, which should work for folks with a short patience.