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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ on Peacock, Ethan Coen's unquenchably horny lesbian road movie

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ on Peacock, Ethan Coen's unquenchably horny lesbian road movie

Dunno about you, but if I’m going to watch a throwaway lark, I’d rather it be by one of the Coen brothers than anyone else. Cue Drive-Away Dolls, a solo outing directed by Ethan Coen, co-writing with his wife Tricia Cooke. You may recall, Joel Coen helmed 2022’s The Tragedy of MacBeth, and although the sibling duo who helmed all-timers like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona, and an all-timer among all-timers, Fargo, they haven’t really “broken up”; they may work together again, but Ethan and Tricia are already filming the follow-up to Drive-Away, both films being part of their planned “lesbian B-movie trilogy.” Both star Margaret Qualley, who here teams with Geraldine Viswanathan for some road-movie silliness that feels really slapped together, and might just be all the better for it.

The Gist: We open on a nervous man played by Pedro Pascal, the first of a few high-profile cameos that I WON’T GIVE AWAY, SO DON’T CALL THE SPOILER COPS ON ME. He has something in a suitcase that scary men want, and by “scary men” I mean “eccentric weirdos,” since this is a Coen movie, and their movies are always bursting at the seams with those types. Cut to the bedroom of Jamie (Qualley) and Sukie (Beanie Feldstein), who are really going at it. Hard! Like, with lots of screaming and aggressive face-sitting. To call Jamie a horndog is to offhandedly remark that the totality of outer space is pretty big. She’s just unquenchable. Always fire-hot and ready to zoooooooooom. It’s 1999 in Philadelphia, and I don’t know what that really has to do with anything, but you feel like Jamie is still hopping on top of anything that moves here 25 years later. Good for her. She lives life until everything falls apart and she keeps on humping away atop the ash and ruins. 

Jamie’s good friends with Marian (Viswanathan), and ends up crashing on her couch after Jamie and Sukie have a falling-out. Now, where Jamie lets it all hang out – a big reason why Sukie socked her one and gave her the boot – Marian keeps it all in, nice and tight. Very buttoned-up, she is. And that dynamic is perfect for what now? A road trip, bro! Marian’s aunt lives in Tallahassee, so they get a “drive-away” car-delivery gig, which is a loosey-goosey plot device that allows them to unassumingly drive the wrong car cross-country with the aforementioned Pascal Suitcase hidden in the trunk. More on that in a second, because Marian’s plan is to just drive straight down but they end up doing Jamie’s plan, which is to hit a bunch of lesbian dives along the way so Jamie can get laid for the zillionth time and Marian can (hopefully) get laid for the first time in a long time. Marian is reluctant to enjoy anything ever, but Jamie’s persuasive. “This is going to be F-U-N-N fun!” Jamie says, and then they hop in the Dodge and R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

Of course the guys who hid the briefcase – guys led by a chap played by Colman Domingo – want their briefcase back. Off go two thugs (CJ Wilson and Joey Slotnick) bickering and bickering as they trail our protag ladies, who aren’t getting along very well because Marian would rather read Henry James in a fleabag motel than host random ladies for ladysex like Jamie does. Meanwhile, we get some weird psychedelic interludes featuring [REDACTED], and they make sense eventually I think, so just go with it. Some nutty shit happens, stakes are raised, filmmaker indulgences are indulged, we wonder what the hell is the case, and are we laughing all the way? Yeah, pretty much.

'Drive-Away Dolls'
Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: There are moments when Drive-Away Dolls drafts on past Coen goofiness – especially Lebowski and Raising Arizona – and an argument could be made that it’s an entire movie inspired by the dildo-chair scene in Burn After Reading

Performance Worth Watching: I like Qualley’s loony energy here, but without Viswanathan as her character foil, the film wouldn’t have a little bit of soul to counterbalance the silliness, and the violence, and the sex.  

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Memorable Dialogue: Jamie’s treatise on romantic love, via Marian’s inability to find it yet: “I’m not certain, honey darlin’, that you have ever reached deep inside any orifice to scoop out your soul and fling it shamelessly at a fellow human being and humiliate yourself and grovel and weep and feel your ego completely disintegrate, otherwise known as the glory of love.”

Sex and Skin: Tons of it! This is a significantly raunchy film! Rejoice!

Drive-Away Dolls
Photo: Everett

Our Take: Nobody in their right mind is going to mistake this ramshackle-ass movie for anything more than a frequently amusing trifle and a celebration of absurdity, in fiction and maybe almost but not necessarily in real life. Drive-Away Dolls is evidence that Ethan may have been the fuel for the Coens’ purest and zaniest comedies, which stretch reality into weird and wonderful nonconformist shapes. The people within the world of Drive-Away are larger than life, speaking in an elevated manner, making each other scream in pain and/or ecstasy (or wherever the twain shall meet) and chasing the silliest MacGuffin on record. You might be able to guess what it is, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.

There’s no point to the movie other than to make us laugh, and if it doesn’t land every joke, it lands enough of them to quell any criticisms you killjoys out there might drum up. Maybe there could be a little more dramatic oomph to our leads, but Qualley and Viswanathan play off their character types in a warm and endearing manner while finding some wiggle room for development, and firmly hitting their comedic marks. Sure, there’s some vague politics beneath the rickety floorboards here, because the film is very incredibly unapologetically gay, and that’s political of course, for reasons that seem super extra stupid in the context of this movie. Are the dog-humping gags, jokes about juke joints and the line “These penises are trouble, Jamie” also political? Maybe, only if you decontextualize them, but I’ve already had enough of this attempt to plumb Serious Thoughts from a near-freeform romp. I just want to laugh, so I’ll probably just watch Drive-Away Dolls again.

Our Call: Yes, the Coens are still loons, and not loving them for it is not an option. STREAM IT.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Chhaya Kadam: Earlier my name wouldn’t even be written in film reviews, now I have a Grand Prix winning film at Cannes

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Chhaya Kadam: Earlier my name wouldn’t even be written in film reviews, now I have a Grand Prix winning film at Cannes

This is clearly the year of Chhaya Kadam! After a great run with the actor’s earlier releases, Laapataa Ladies and Madgaon Express, her film All That We Imagine As Light became the first Indian film to win the Grand Prix at the recently concluded 77th Cannes Film Festival. One of her other films, Sister Midnight, was also screened at Directors Fortnight. Talking to us after the Grand Prix ceremony, Kadam exclaims, “It was the first Indian film to be screened at the main competition in 30 years, and we directly won an award! We had a story rooted in our motherland about women like us. For a subject like that to get selected here… I have no words.”

Actor Chhaya Kadam

Acknowledging her great run this year, she says, “People in Cannes also recognised me as Manju Mai (from Laapataa Ladies); they would say, ‘hey Manju Mai, Chhaya Kadam’.”

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Kadam’s tryst with acting began in 2006, then she went on to star in Marathi films such as Fandry (2013), Sairat (2016) and Nude (2018). “Earlier, my struggle was to get work; now it is for good work,” she shares, adding that it doesn’t end there. While she’s enjoying the fame now, there was a time when the actor’s work wasn’t recognised. “Earlier, film reviews would miss out on mentioning my name, even if my character was important. Bura toh bahut lagta tha. But then I thought I should work so hard that people are compelled to mention my name in their reviews,” she ends with a chuckle.

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Ezra (2024) – Movie Review

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Ezra (2024) – Movie Review

Ezra, 2024.

Directed by Tony Goldwyn.
Starring Bobby Cannavale, William A. Fitzgerald, Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga, Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson, Tony Goldwyn, Jackson Frazer, Greer Barnes, Tess Goldwyn, Ella Ayberk, Lois Robbins, Alex Plank, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Matilda Lawler, Joe Pacheco, Amy Sheehan, Barzin Akhavan, Donna Vivino, Jacqueline Nwabueze, John Donovan Wilson, Joshua Hinck, Sophie Mulligan, Thomas Duverné, Guillermo Rodriguez, and Jimmy Kimmel.

SYNOPSIS:

Comedian Max co-parents autistic son Ezra with ex-wife Jenna. Faced with crucial decisions about Ezra’s future, Max and Ezra go on a life-changing cross-country road trip.

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Undeniably made with good intentions, Ezra wants to tell a story about a young autistic boy and his father struggling to accept that uniqueness (lamenting that his son will never be “normal”) due to some personal baggage related to his rocky upbringing. Ezra is also a film that consistently gets sidetracked or finds itself telling that story in a broad, mawkish manner with outlandish plot beats that continuously sink the few elements that work. That’s also surprising considering screenwriter Tony Spiridakis (who had been working on the script for roughly 15 years) is basing that father-son relationship on his experience raising an autistic child. Why turn such personal material into… this?

A film about the challenges of parenting an autistic child and ensuring that everything from school to public behavior is going well has enough realistic, stressful drama to be relatable to anyone who has ever been in a similar situation. The dynamic that parents Max (Bobby Cannavale) and Jenna (Rose Byrne) are divorced (the actors are married with children in real life) adds another layer of domestic intrigue.

Directed by Tony Goldwyn, the film seems to have no awareness of when to stop manufacturing more drama or when it begins to feel like piling on for the sake of telling a story that quickly begins to feel false. It becomes less of an earnest look at autistic childhood and more of a far-fetched road trip flick where the logic for certain characters is nonexistent, and the narrative rapidly transitions to do something that could only exist in the movies, something that is counterproductive to why this film was made.

This is frustrating since there are touching flourishes whenever Max interacts with the titular Ezra (William A. Fitzgerald, a delight to watch and autistic). Despite getting expelled from school, Ezra is a kind soul with various stimulation triggers (such as hugs or sensitivity to eating with forks), who often speaks in famous quotes and takes everything literally to such a degree that when he overhears Jenna’s new partner jokingly talking about murdering Max, he frantically runs out of the house to warn his loving father. This leads to Ezra making the choice to run into the middle of the street while scared and avoiding a barking dog on the sidewalk, nearly getting hit by a car, with doctors under the impression that it was a suicide attempt, dealing with the incident by forcing the parents to put the boy into a special needs school and take antipsychotic medication.

That’s only the beginning of this exaggerated story, which then sees Max kidnapping his son from Jenna, believing that she has lost hope in fighting for his rights and is too comfortable listening to professional advice. He doesn’t like that the medication zombifies his son (understandably so) and appears to believe that allowing the boy to go to a special needs school means he is accepting that there is something wrong. Many of his hangups with accepting his son’s autism come from a tumultuous relationship with his father, Stan (Robert De Niro), a former chef who gave up his dreams to provide for Max after his mother left. This grandfather also has trouble acknowledging his grandson’s autism, uncomfortable uttering the term. Both of these men, in a sense, are hiding and running from reality.

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Perhaps a more skilled filmmaking team could make something out of that, but Ezra also has to contend with baffling subplots such as Max’s aspiring standup comedian career and his relative closeness to securing a spot performing for Jimmy Kimmel. There is also a road trip aspect that sees Max heading West with Ezra, coming across several old friends for the sake of convenience. In one sequence, the film makes the case that there will be kids (even girls) who accept Ezra and those who will bully him, doing so in a confused way, unsure if it wants to sanitize itself. It’s also accompanied by sappy music.

At a certain point, Ezra is officially reported as kidnapped with warnings and notices throughout the 24-hour news cycle. Max is aware of this, yet confoundingly still thinks showing up to audition for Jimmy Kimmel will end well. The occasional tender moments between father and son are continuously undercut by this stupidity and overblown narrative decisions. At least it follows suit, ending in a fittingly melodramatic cringe.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

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Movie Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Now Playing at Boone Regal

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Movie Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Now Playing at Boone Regal
May 27, 2024 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” was one of the most critically-lauded action movies not just of its year, not just of its decade, but of all time. I will forever curse “Pitch Perfect 2” for opening the same weekend and doing better at the box office, thus keeping me from reviewing “Fury Road” (for the record, I would have given it an enthusiastic B). While Tom Hardy’s Max was an important presence in that movie, audiences seemed to find themselves drawn to another character, one that had an even more commanding screen presence, did more to make the film instantly iconic, and more than warranted an expensive prequel. Alas, we’ll have to keep waiting for that origin story for the guitar-playing Doof Warrior. In the meantime, we have this movie about another beloved “Fury Road” character, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.  Read more
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