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Drive Away Dolls: A Lesbian Fever Dream Of Strange Proportions


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Queer stories in film, television, and books are far more common these days which is always cause for celebration and multiple viewings. But how frequently do we get sapphic stories in film that really capture the lesbian experience and catered toward the queer girls and femme-presenting folk? No matter how much these relationships and stories are hinted or teased, they often end up being crumbs or subtle references. But that’s where Ethan Coen’s latest and unassuming film, Drive Away Dolls changes the game a little bit in being unapologetically queer.

Drive Away Dolls stars Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp, and Matt Damon in this roadtrip style comedy film. The story focuses on Jamie and Marian, two lesbian friends who take a road trip down to Tallahassee, Florida to visit a distant family member. What they don’t realize is that the drive away vehicle they rented contains highly sensitive goods not intended for the public eye. As Jamie and Marian remain clueless about what they are transporting across the country and live an explicit adventure, they are chased by three men who are intent on getting back what’s theirs for the sake of the country.

DRIVE AWAY DOLLS. (left to right) Margret Qualley as Jamie and Geraldine Vishwanathan as Marian. Photo Courtesy: Focus Features.

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Let’s get one thing out of the way. Celebrating mediocrity of marginalized groups in media should be normalized. And that is to say that at best, Drive Away Dolls is a mediocre queer film that is certain to be enjoyed by LGBTQ audiences across the board. The film is outrageously explicit and unafraid to display sexuality on all levels, something that is no different from your average cishet-led film that displays the same content. And because it is exceptionally rare to see this with female characters due to its taboo-nature, it can be quite refreshing to see a film be free to indulge in queer relations. If anything, we need more sapphic stories out in the wild, whether they’re simplistic yet vulgar like Drive Away Dolls or something much more complex and intimate.

At its core, the story of Drive Away Dolls is very simple as it just follows two queer women on an otherwise innocent road trip. The only added layer is the mystery surrounding the briefcase holding unknown goods in the drive away and the country-wide chase to retrieve it. There isn’t much fluff added to the film to give it much depth, and as the story progresses, it feels flat with a script that doesn’t really give a lot either. And a simple, non-complex script doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially for a comedy film. But that’s assuming there’s enough comedic moments to satisfy an otherwise straightforward story.

DRIVE AWAY DOLLS. (left to right) Geraldine Vishwanathan as Marian, Margret Qualley as Jamie, and Beanie Feldman as Sukie. Photo Courtesy: Focus Features.

While there are plenty of jokes to go around, only a few of them hit the mark with the majority of missing it entirely. So much so that it just leaves an empty feeling by the end of the movie, making you question whether it was a worthwhile watch at all. If anything, the creative choices made in the film both in transitions and psychedelic moments that are certainly a euphemism are probably the more intriguing moments of the film that bring at least some substance. But again, does it add humor? Not really, and it’s kind of a shame.

As far as performances go, it is always a bizarre and fun treat to see the likes of phenomenal actors in small budget films like Drive Away Dolls. As the casting suggests, we see bits and pieces of Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, and Matt Damon, all of whom hold some weight within Hollywood whether on television or in film. And while their appearances are brief and short lived, they are a delight nonetheless. But the real focus should be on our leading ladies, Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan, both of whom have appeared in lesser known projects.

DRIVE AWAY DOLLS. (left to right) C.J. Wilson as Flint, Colman Domingo as Chief, and Joey Slotnick as Arliss. Photo Courtesy: Focus Features.

Both actresses manage to be comedic on an individual level, with one-liners and moments that feel like they came out of nowhere but managed to get a laugh. However, the issue is trying to find the chemistry between the two. It’s not unusual to see one with dry humor and another with fast-paced crude humor mesh together, and it often turns out just fine. But in the case of Qualley and Viswanathan, it truly felt like something was missing. This may have been a one big lesbian movie, but in this case? It might have served better for them to remain actual roommates.

Drive Away Dolls is exactly the kind of mediocre project that can honestly be looked at as one of the best films in the eyes of some. But even as a member of the queer community, I had trouble finding much interest in the story over time, wishing for at least a little more substance and a little more humor. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t watch it. In fact, give it a watch, and let yourself decide whether this is quality entertainment or something that’s probably better left for streaming. After all, it’s a queer story about queer people on a wild road trip, and I can’t say we’ve seen much of that to begin with. If it’s a lesbian fever dream that you’ve been looking for, then Drive Away Dolls was made for just you.

 Samosa Rating:  

Drive Away Dolls receives 2 out of 5 Samosas.

Drive Away Dolls is now playing in theaters.
Runtime: 1h 24m

If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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