Drive-Away Dolls review: an uproarious sapphic odyssey

The new film by Ethan Coen is a smart, sexy comedy that gets funnier and filthier with every frame.

This is the first line of my review for Drive-Away Dolls, so while I’ve still got your attention, I implore you to GO AND SEE THIS FILM.

See it with your girlfriend. Your boyfriend. Your theyfriend. Take ten mates and dress up in tank tops and jeans with carabiners on the belt loops. I’m going to need you all to turn out for this film like you did for Barbie – because it’s just as, if not more, fun than the multi-million dollar blockbuster, and I fear it won’t get the same attention due to its lack of PR in Australia.

But I hope to single-handedly alter that, because it’s seriously good, and it deserves multiple viewings.

Directed by Ethan Coen (sans brother Joel, for the first time in a while) and written by him and his wife Tricia Cooke (who identifies as queer), Drive-Away Dolls is a fast-paced, slapstick caper about a couple of lesbians on a road trip gone oh-so-wrong.

In the throes of Sapphic sexual ecstasy, we meet Jamie (Margaret Qualley, Poor Things), an ‘uninhibited free spirit’, who has just broken up with her longtime girlfriend Sukie (Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart). When Jamie discovers that her demure friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan, The Beanie Bubble) is depressed and hasn’t had sex in years, the two go in search of a fresh start – which translates to an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee.

Things go awry, as things are wont to do, when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals who are chasing a mysterious suitcase stolen from an even more mysterious Spanish man (played by Pedro Pascal, whose on-screen death scene here pays specific homage to Game of Thrones).

Power of the DOP

Originally titled Drive-Away Dykes (which is obviously the better title, but it got nixed due to the bigwigs being PUSSIES), this feminist odyssey-meets-queer lovefest-meets-late night B movie is the must-see of the month.

From the get-go we are lavished with sumptuous colours, scene-gnawing character work, and more Dutch angles than you can shake a dildo at. But the hyper-stylisation in Drive-Away Dolls never bombards, it only uplifts and imbues the film with a sense of impish naughtiness, like ‘I can’t believe we’re getting away with this’.

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I take my hat off to Australian DOP Ari Wegner, whose camera work here nails the Russ Meyer-meets-John Waters mood of the film. I cannot give higher praise for her excellent cinematography, which feels so at home in this Coen bro film that you’d think she’d collaborated with Ethan and Joel for years. What’s especially impressive about this is that it comes off the back of her work in vastly different flicks The Power of the Dog and Eileen. She has the range!

Let’s go, lesbians!

Geraldine Viswanathan and Margaret Qualley are perfectly cast as Marian and Jamie, playing each other’s opposite and one-hundred percent committing to the zany tone of the movie. Their chemistry crackles with tension, and their odd-couple shtick carries the movie so well. Qualley’s goofy southern accent lands well in a film that leans into the goofiness at every opportunity, and Viswanathan nails the tough task of making the uptight Marian loveable.

Beanie Feldman gives the best secondary performance of the film as Jamie’s scourned lover Sukie, who embarks on a journey to return Jamie’s dog to her, fueled purely by post-breakup rage. The wall-dildo removal scene had me crying with laughter.

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Originally written in 2000 via a collaboration with Tricia Cooke and Ethan Coen, Drive-Away Dolls was returned to in the 2020s thanks to the ample time the couple suddenly had during pandemic lockdowns. They retained their originally idea to set it in 1999, a time before mobile phones and high speed internet – and thank the lesbian gods they did, because it ensures Jamie and Marian can truly go ‘off-grid’ while driving to Tallahasee, and simultaneously allows for some of the best narrative payoffs of the whole film.

It’s smart, it’s sexy, and its an outrageously good time.

Drive-Away Dolls is in cinemas now.


5 out of 5 stars


Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan


Ethan Coen

Format: Movie

Country: USA

Release: 22 February 2024

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports