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Blu-Ray : Worth a Look
Ranking:
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Release Date: April 23rd, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2024

Drive-Away Dolls

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Matthew Hartman
As the absurdist American auteurs continue to make films apart, Ethan Coen, one-half of the iconic Coen Bros., teams with his wife Tricia Cooke for Drive-Away Dolls. A goofball lesbian road comedy crime caper B-flick, the film is as hilarious as often as it is uneven and stuck in the mud. When it’s great it’s grand, when it breaks down it takes a lot to get it back on the road. On Blu-ray, the film scores an often beautiful 1080p transfer with excellent Atmos Audio. Worth A Look

OVERALL:
Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
Length:
84
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for Feature, Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital Surround 5.1), and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
April 23rd, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

There was a time when a trailer could say “A Coen Brothers Film” that it would immediately pique the interest of the cinema-seeking populace. Six years after The Ballad of Buster Scruggs succumbed to its streaming-exclusive fate on Netflix, the eponymous Brothers have yet to make another film - together at least. Joel went on to direct the brilliant 2021 adaptation of The Tragedy of Macbeth. Now it’s Ethan’s turn. Teaming with his wife Tricia Cooke for producing, editing, and writing duties, Ethan directs the often hilarious but equally frustrating lesbian-fueled road comedy crime caper Drive-Away Dolls

Our little film opens in 1999 in Philadelphia where a mysterious man by the name of Santos (Pedro Pascal) is set to deliver a mysterious silver briefcase. Quickly murdered, the case is stolen and his head is cut off. On the other side of town, brash unfaithful Texan lesbian Jamie (Magaret Qualley) is getting kicked out of her apartment by her former girlfriend and Philly police officer Sukie (Beanie Feldstein). With nowhere to go, Jamie decides to ride along with her friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) on a road trip to Tallahassee, Florida. Using a drive-away service for cheap transport, the girls unwittingly pick up the wrong car carrying merchandise that could change the course of the entire country. 

If there’s one thing the Coen Brothers were good at it's thrillers. No Country For Old Men, Blood Simple, and Miller’s Crossing, are some of the best the genre has to offer. But when they’re not showing people killing each other over relatively trivial issues, the Coen Brothers were making audiences laugh to death with absurdist comedies like Raising Arizona, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and the iconic The Big Lebowski. Occasionally these tastes would intermingle and once in a while they’d produce a dud or two, but their output was always exciting. 

After the brothers creatively separated (at least temporarily), they’ve each gone in notably different directions. Joel keyed into Shakespeare. Ethan started his Lesbian Road Trilogy with Drive-Away Dolls with his wife Tricia Cooke in the style of a classic Coen Brothers comedy. This is a film that tries to have it all as a comedy thriller, only it’s not that thrilling, and the comedy frustratingly wears thin in the home stretch.

For the most part, the misadventures of Jamie and Marian are damn funny. While their drive is supposed to take a day, they make several detours to hit any number of lesbian-friendly establishments. Jamie is an out and loudly proud promiscuous Texan while Marian is buttoned-up, straight-laced, and prudish about her sexuality. The simple journey becomes a mission to get Marian laid. It’s sweet. It’s funny. And then they discover what they’re carrying in the trunk of the car and it gets even funnier. On their tails are a pair of Goons (C.J. Wilson and Joey Slotnick) under orders from the Chief (Coleman Domingo). And they’re funny. Even the reveal of the MacGuffin and how it ties to a state senator played by Matt Damon is pretty damn funny.

The problem is for a road comedy thriller that at 83 minutes should be an easy breezy run, it’s also a frustrating slog. The film lacks consistent inertia. It starts, stops, and then has to warm up the engine to get going again. Some of the plot detours feel like they should go somewhere or help the characters grow, but instead, the action grinds to a dead stop. And when you want the plot to start going somewhere, it goes nowhere. This frustratingly shortchanges the film’s big MacGuffin reveal and the final act feels incredibly rushed. If I hadn’t known it was Ethan Coen behind the camera, I’d have assumed it was just someone trying to ape the Coen Brothers' style and not quite making the grade.

There are many moments when the performances are terrific, the script crackles, and Drive-Away Dolls is drop-dead hilarious. Then there are moments where it’s just painfully not funny and isn’t moving. Given Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke’s interesting relationship, they’re great talent with a unique perspective to create a trilogy of queer-themed B-movie road comedy thrillers. Drive-Away Dolls had a lot of potential, it starts great but doesn’t knit together very well by the end. Let's hope their next entry, the currently titled and in production Honey Don’t!, turns out better. I want these excursions to be worth it. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray 
Drive-Away Dolls
rolls onto physical media with a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital set from Universal. Pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in a two-disc standard case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a pretty standard main menu with the bonus features along the right side of the screen.

Video Review

Ranking:

Seeing as how Universal tends to play safe with their physical media releases going for an initial Blu-ray/DVD release instead of offering a 4K option, we’ll have to wait and see if this one enters the format. Given the box office return and the audience scores - my bet is it won't, at least here in the States anyway. Regardless of a higher HD format, this Blu-ray is a beauty. Bright, and colorful, the film looks great - Ari Wegner’s photography does a marvelous job replicating the expected Coen style with some lovely color flourishes. Details are sharp and clear, fine lines and textures are given their due. It’s weird to see the late ‘90s brought back to life so effectively without the show going out of its way to say “Hey, look it’s the ‘90s!” Black levels are on point giving the image a nice sense of depth and dimension. 4.5/5

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio side, Drive-Away Dolls makes off with a surprisingly effective Dolby Atmos track. For a film that hinges more on comedic dialog over action set pieces or big loud locations, I was impressed by how well the mix managed the extra vertical channels and spacing. Much of the film keeps to the front/center focusing on the dialog, but it also manages to let plenty of side, rear, and height moments fill the soundscape. It’s not the most aggressively atmospheric and immersive track I’ve ever heard but it’s effective for what it does. Imaging works very well with passing cars rolling by and around the main vehicle. Excursions to various bars and clubs pick up the activity and the film’s finale spruces things up even if it's only a brief segment. Between Carter Burwell’s score and the film’s various music cues, gunfire, screeching tires, and road noise, there’s some nice LFE to enjoy too. 4.5/5

Special Features

Ranking:

On the bonus features scale, there’s not a lot here. Most of it is just fluff stuff, only a few minutes (or less) for each featurette. While brief, there’s some decent material here to glean some slight insights into the production. An Ethan and Tricia commentary would have been nice as their interview segments offer the best pieces for this package of very short extras. All told we get less than 8 minutes of material. 

  • The Drive-Away Gang (HD 3:11)
  • Drive-AWay Dolls: An Ethan and Tricia Project (HD 3:27)
  • Road Trip Essentials (HD 00:57)

Drive-Away Dolls is almost a great road comedy thriller. It starts out great, damn funny, and our characters have that usual Coen color and flair for weirdness and charm you want to see. The problems start to mount when the film just doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere and ultimately leaves too little time for the plot resolution to have maximum impact. But at the same time, it is a weird tribute to one of the most notorious groupies in Rock history. Hopefully, Ethan and Tricia’s next adventure together is a little tighter and more fulfilling. On Blu-ray, the film scores an excellent transfer and Atmos mix but bonus features leave a lot to be desired. Ultimately, it’s Worth A Look but it won't be for everyone. 

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