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Home Road Trip ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ a darkly funny road trip, covers a lot of ground

‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ a darkly funny road trip, covers a lot of ground

by Staff

The frequently hilarious and fantastically trippy lesbian road movie action comedy “Drive-Away Dolls” is set in the late 1990s and has a coveted briefcase that inspires awe in all who view its contents a la “Pulp Fiction” (1994), and there’s also a certain thing in a box just like in “Seven” (1995). But in many ways this feels like an update on the exploitation movies of the 1970s and ’80s that played on drive-in theater screens before eventually making their way to VHS and late-night TV cult viewings. It’s Sharp Cheddar Cheese on Wry (sorry) and it’s a cool and breezy 84 minutes of fun.

Much of the dark humor in “Drive-Away Dolls” will also remind you of various Coen Brothers films, which makes perfect sense seeing as how this is A Coen Brother film, that brother being Ethan Coen, who also co-wrote the screenplay with his spouse Tricia Cooke. Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan are a crackling good duo as the co-leads, and how’s this for an eclectic and terrific supporting cast, with virtually everyone getting a scene or two to shine: Matt Damon, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Beanie Feldstein and I think that was Miley Cyrus in a couple of fantasy sequences, and yep that WAS Miley. (Sidebar: Matt Damon must have the most prolific cameo career of any actor of his generation, e.g.,”Eurotrip,” “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Deadpool 2,” et al.)

After a violent and wickedly funny prologue that starts in a tavern in Philadelphia called Cicero’s Bar (it reminded me of the Lucky Seven Tavern from “Rocky”), we’re introduced to a mismatched pair of best friends, Jamie (Margaret Qualley, leaning into her Texas accent), a free-spirited and sexually liberated chatterbox, and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), who is buttoned-up and conservative-dressing and is into hobbies such as reading and birding, and hasn’t been intimate with anyone in quite some time, which Jamie of course finds SCANDALOUS.

When the philandering Jamie is kicked to the curb by her long-suffering police officer girlfriend, Sukie (a scene-stealing Beanie Feldstein), it’s the perfect time for Jamie to join Marian on a road trip to Tallahassee to visit Marian’s aunt. They drop in on one of those “drive-away” places where you drive someone else’s car to a destination for them, and off they go, but before we join them, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the great character actor Bill Camp plays Curlie, the manager of the drive-away, and in a later point of the film, he delivers one of the funniest lines of the decade.

What Curlie doesn’t know, what Jamie and Marian don’t know, what Scotty Doesn’t Know (sorry, that’s from a different movie with a Matt Damon cameo), is there are two items in the trunk of that car that certain people are desperate to retrieve. Joey Slotnick and C.J. Wilson are a hoot as Arliss and Flint, respectively, a couple of dangerous but bumbling hired muscle guys who are like a lighter version of the Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare characters in “Fargo,” while Colman Domingo joins the fun as their boss, the elegant but menacing Chief.

As Jamie and Marian make their way through Georgia on the way to Florida, they get into a number of wacky adventures, one involving a college softball team and we’ll say no more. Jamie can be a human wrecking ball as she skids through life, but she genuinely cares for Marian and who knows, maybe even a romance might develop. (We’re not saying either way.)

Co-writer Tricia Cooke has done editing work on a bounty of films by the Coen brothers, and she delivers crisp and tight editing here; with the 84-minute running time, “Drive-Away Dolls” is slam-bang entertainment that doesn’t waste our time. Still, there’s a LOT crammed into this story, from the main plot that revolves around those two items in the trunk to some flashback dreams in which Marian recalls her sexual awakening to the introduction of Damon’s character, who finds himself in quite the pickle and we’ll leave it there. This is also a good-looking film, with the color palette going from dark, saturated tones to brighter visuals as Marian and Jamie make their way south.

Not all of the jokes land; I’d be just fine if I never saw another dog-humping gag ever, ever, ever, again. Still, Qualley and Viswanathan make for a couple of winning and endearing drive-away dolls.

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