“Ethan Coen takes a bold, unconventional turn with Drive-Away Dolls, a review”

Ethan Coen ventures into uncharted territory with his latest project, Drive-Away Dolls, and the result is a thrilling departure from his usual style.

“Ethan Coen takes a bold, unconventional turn with Drive-Away Dolls, a review” Ethan Coen ventures into uncharted territory with his latest project, Drive-Away Dolls, and the result is a thrilling departure from his usual style.


While working together as filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen gained a reputation for being incredibly in sync. Their collaborators noted that they would always provide the same response to any question, even if asked separately. This earned them the nickname “the two-headed director”, but their individual projects suggest a level of detachment that is less like a shared brain and more like a surgical split.

During their short break, they created works that were quite different from each other. Rumors suggest that they have reunited and are currently working on their first horror project. However, their works still seem to share a similar sensibility. For example, Joel’s serious and moody adaptation of Macbeth lacked any humor or color, while Ethan’s road trip comedy Drive-Away Dolls is the silliest and most carefree addition to their collection. Joel’s individual project explored the history of experimental theater in America and gave Shakespeare’s works a bold and dark twist, whereas Ethan’s film is a parody of sexploitation films and revolves around stolen sex toys.

Instead of being a trade-off between discipline and personality, this raunchy and lesbian-focused adventure is not just a minor piece of miscellaneous work from the Coen brothers. Even though it may seem like Ethan (along with his wife Tricia Cooke, who has a queer identity and plays a significant role in this project as a writer and editor) has used familiar plot devices to create immature humor. These include a missing briefcase from No Country for Old Men, a pair of hitmen similar to Fargo’s chatty/misanthropic duo, and a talkative wise guy like O Brother, Where Art Thou’s Ulysses Everett McGill, who stays one step ahead of them while on the run. As Jamie, a promiscuous woman (played by Margaret Qualley with an accent that resembles Tommy Lee Jones speaking at 1.5x speed), and Marian, a more reserved woman (played by Geraldine Viswanathan in the role of the straight man), make their way to Florida in a rental car with an unexpected and precious cargo, they pass through familiar narrative points along the way.

However, just like how the movie The Big Lebowski during the Gulf War subtly criticized American political issues by mentioning Saddam and Bush Sr, Drive-Away Dolls takes place during the Y2K era, the end of Clinton’s presidency and the rise of conservatism. This is new territory for the Coen brothers, known for their dark humor, and even includes a comedic scene with a small dog. But what sets this film apart is its unexpected touches of sentimentality, providing a heartwarming love story in a filmography often accused of being too detached from its characters. Jamie is seeking a fun time, and the film happily indulges her while also hinting at the bigger picture of life.

The use of technique that has caused a vocal group of critics to be turned off has been significantly reduced, with subtle references rather than being forceful. Jamie mentions a similarity to a movie while recreating the iconic glowing-briefcase scene from Kiss Me Deadly, but this is mostly based on vibes. Coen and Cooke have shared that their inspiration came from their own vague ideas of sleazy filmmakers like Doris Wishman and Russ Meyer, rather than their actual work. (The main reference may be Dr Strangelove, which first proposed the idea that war, government, and ideologies are all rooted in the sexual insecurities of resentful men.) The essence of the Coen brothers’ style is most evident in the sharp dialogue, with its ornate phrases, absurd repetitions, and casual philosophical musings. However, this time around, the trademark colorful language is mostly used to allude to sexual acts.

The shedding of seriousness also comes with a cost, as the directorial rigor is slightly below standard. Joel seems to have a natural ability to place the camera in the most comedic and clever spot, but there are also tender moments that showcase a more emotional and associative visual language. The characters are seeking pleasure, and the Coen-Cooke team indulges in cheesy wipe-style scene transitions. These transitions may determine whether the viewer will enjoy the film or feel left behind. The film’s 84-minute runtime includes trippy passages that may be compared to the bumpers from That 70s Show. Miley Cyrus makes an appearance as radical visual artist Cynthia Plaster-Caster, to whom the film is dedicated, and her lack of lines does not deter her from graciously taking part in the film.

In a 2022 interview, Ethan Coen expressed his thoughts on the past 30 years, stating that while it was not unenjoyable, it had become more of a job than before. His latest project, Drive-Away Dolls, is filled with unexpected twists and turns, but ultimately showcases an artist rediscovering the joy in the creative process. This film serves as a significant addition to the Coen brothers’ body of work, demonstrating growth and progress rather than regression or compromise. Despite its laid-back pace, it is a testament to their maturity as filmmakers, even with an abundance of crude humor.

  • .

    Drive-Away Dolls will be released in US theaters on February 23rd and in the UK on March 15th.

Source: theguardian.com