Drive-Away Dolls (Blu-ray Review)

Drive-Away Dolls will always have the distinction of being the first film directed by A Coen Brother and not by THE Coen Brothers.  That alone is a big thing in itself, knowing what fans of film know about the famed duo.  They make all kinds of films, usually with a nice dose of humor, and this is the first time Ethan has been without Joel to create a new story for us to enjoy.  Will that spell disaster for Ethan in his first solo outing, or does Drive-Away Dolls add yet another critical darling to the list? Find out more in-depth below, and be sure to click the cover art (a paid link) to order a copy of Drive-Away Dolls on Blu-ray.


Written by Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke, the story follows Jamie (Margaret Qualley), an uninhibited free spirit bemoaning yet another breakup with a girlfriend, and her demure friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), who desperately needs to loosen up. In search of a fresh start, the two embark on an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee, but things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals along the way.

I can’t really say that Drive-Away Dolls is something super complex.  The film says exactly what it’s about from synopsis to screen.  Simplicity is key, and for once, the brevity of a film is something we can really appreciate here.  Jamie and Marian are best friends, and even though they’re opposites, it’s clear to see they care for one another. When Jamie is caught up in a situation leading her girlfriend to dump her, she talks Marian into going to the local “Drive-Away” to take a car to a location and just live there once they arrive.  Marian, usually more uptight of course has reservations but just as friends do, she abides and they head to Florida, where they can stay with Marian’s aunt.  They’re to deliver a car to someone there and that’s just what they do.

Of course, things aren’t all cut and dry and rarely ever are. Someone else was meant for that “drive-away” and those criminals (including Colman Domingo and Bill Camp) are on the run looking for Marian and Jamie.  The story though, is still simple.  Jamie is very free and sexual. Marian is uptight and hasn’t had a relationship in years.  They’re both lesbians and Jamie just wants Marian to feel good.  For Jamie, the road trip is a quest to get Marian laid.  For Marian, the trip is meant for her to relax, read, and see her aunt.  The differences are big, but there becomes a moment of connection where both of these friends get what they want.

Part of the charm of a film like Drive-Away Dolls is its ability to be simple, yet entertaining.  There is no mistaking that the film is a B-Movie, harkening back to 70’s cinema with some silly moments, some psychedelia, and some natural film cheese.  The dialogue and frank sexuality could put off a lot of people, and as I’ve said in the past, some people just can’t accept that gay people are here, alive, living, breathing, sexual people.  This shouldn’t be shocking, but for this reason, I know Drive-Away Dolls won’t find a more abundant audience. This is a shame though, because the film has a lot of heart, good humor and just enough sweetness to make you feel warm.  Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan continue to excel in their roles, being engaging, committed, and having excellent chemistry. There are also some appearances from Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal and Miley Cyrus, seemingly out of nowhere.

And then we have Ethan Coen.  People will say the film is a misfire. They’ll say it’s “woke”. They’ll denounce it’s openly gay stance as something meant to turn people or to push others away.  Really, what it is is a crime comedy with lesbian main characters, simple as that.  Coen does well with the material as he always does, and even if one does miss brother Joel just a tad, you can see Ethan shine in this film, and also pick out what he brings to the collaborative films too.  I think that Drive-Away Dolls will be misunderstood for a while, but I hope people with open minds discover it at home and enjoy the film as much as I did. A quirky good time…


NOTE: Stills are provided for promotional use only and are not from the Blu-ray.

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1


Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Captured at 4.5K with a 4K D.I., Drive-Away Dolls downscales beautifully to Blu-ray.  Clarity is sharp and crisp with some natural softness in focus moments and some of the psychedelic vignette breaks.  Nothing here looks out of the ordinary, and while it’s not surprising the film didn’t receive a 4K disc, we at least can access that version with HDR on Peacock.

Depth:  Depth is handled with the focus of something from the 1970s. While the film is based in the late 90’s, a lot of the inspiration for the look reminded me of a period film like The Virgin Suicides or Dazed and Confused. Therefore, there are natural moments of softness within the 84-minute runtime.

Color Reproduction: The color palette for most of the film ranges from muted and calm to bright and popping.  There’s a nice variety all-around and though much of the action takes place at nighttime, there is no degradation on colors.

Black Levels: Nighttime looks right throughout.  No black crush, no missed information here.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones do not look awkward, or orange tinted. Everyone looks natural, and that’s as always a plus.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Although the press release touted this release a standard Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Drive-Away Dolls actually sports an Atmos mix.  The sound overall is perfect for the film, with some scenes taking place is smaller spaces, giving you moments of small immersion, while opening in outdoor scenes or giving the music more room to breathe.

Height: Above the listener, we hear the road, make-out party sounds, bar noise and some echo on occasion too.

Low-Frequency Extension: Music is the main owner of the bass department, with some gunshots given some heft too.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds, just like the height channels add compliment to the action on-screen, without overpowering the dialogue or the natural stereo sound space.

Dialogue Reproduction: No issues.


Special features are quick, fast and apparently in a hurry. These are standard special features, but they’re cute. The release also ships with a slipcover, digital code and DVD.

  • THE DRIVE-AWAY GANG– Sit down with the cast and filmmakers of DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS as they discuss their roles, getting into character, and the exciting cameo appearances.
  • DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS: AN ETHAN AND TRICIA PROJECT– Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke discuss what inspired them to write this story, why they waited 20 years to bring it to life, and what it was like working together on a project from start to finish for the first time.


Drive-Away Dolls was originally titled Drive-Away Dykes before it became it’s much cleaner title.  That would’ve scared audiences even further away.  Unfortunately, these same audiences are missing out on a sharp, unapologetic comedy. B-Movie and 70’s exploitation give way to broad raunchy comedy and the mix is heady and fun.  The chemistry of the leads is undeniable and it’s clear that Coen and Tricia Cook created the film from a loving space.  See it for something different and be sure to have an open mind!


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