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Drive-Away Dolls

Ethan Coen shows why his satirical collaboration without brother Joel is a way to go that can be almost as entertaining as with. Go-Away Girls is a lowbrow satire of the ’6o’s and ‘70’s B-movies with randy girls, thin plots, and uneven dialogue, all hallmarks of that era’s cheese.

In 1999, two lesbians, Jami (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), are going South (in its multiple connotations) from Philly to Tallahassee to refresh their lives but unfortunately hijack a Dodge Aries with gang-related merchandise in the trunk. Not until later do they discover the goods, just as low- brow as the film’s plot, and already subject of a manhunt by not the brightest goons in the South. The humor is broad and bawdy, goofy and glib, funnier a half century ago rather than now.

The dialogue between the two protagonists sometimes sounds screwball like but still obvious, not subtle, almost on point (“How was it?” “Bouncy”). That period and genre are faithfully reproduced by Cohen and his writer, lesbian wife Tricia Cooke, who long ago was allegedly cooking up this tale with “Drive-Away Dykes” as a title. The Linda Ronstadt needle drops seem more appropriate than ever.

The make-out sessions are almost slow-mo between the leads and various road lesbians, not the least of which is a session in Marietta with a team of athletes, almost as randy as Jamie, but none as shy as Marian. The emergence of Marian into full-fledged lesbian is one of the film’s delights; in fact, the gay sexuality of the film is admirable, much more acceptable to our time than fifty years ago when girl-on-girl mating was not viable and dildo prominence unthinkable.

The treatment of men as intellectually inferior was always a part of the genre, notwithstanding dumb-blonde stereotypes. The lampooning of men’s stupidity, best exemplified in the bickering goons played by Joey Slotnik and C. J. Wilson, is a plus in the humor category as it is an homage to the insight of those times when the general populace was still downgrading women.

Drive-Away Dolls is an ode to sapphic lust and a road trip faintly echoing the liberation of Thelma and Louise. All in all, it is worth seeing the period reenactment and the sexual joy that we only lately fully accept. Joy also looking ahead to the second entry of Coen and Cooke in a planned lezzie trilogy.

Or, if you’re not free enough to enjoy fully the alternative ribald trip in Drive-Away Dolls, you can enjoy a cameo of Miley Cyrus saying straight into the camera, “Hey, handsome, you want to get plastered?” Or that it’s a spare 84 minutes of wacky nostalgia and titillating absurdity.

Drive-Away Dolls

Director: Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)

Screenplay: Coen, Tricia Cooke

Cast: Margaret Qualley (Once a Time . . . in Hollywood), Colman Domingo (The Color Purple)

Run Time: 1h 24m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take (recently listed by Feedspot as two of the ten best NPR Movie Podcasts) out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando