It’s hard to put into words the kind of the disappointment that comes with realising that one of your favourite filmmakers has made a truly terrible movie. That realisation hit me approximately 10 minutes into Drive-Away Dolls, the new film by one half of acclaimed filmmaking duo The Coen Brothers. 

Alongside his brother Joel, Ethan Coen has given us more than 4 decades of brilliant films ranging from quirky black comedies – A Serious Man, Hail, Caesar!, Inside Llewyn Davis – to beautifully devised crime capers – Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men and True Grit being just a few – but recently the prolific brothers took a break from working together. This resulted in Joel Coen’s multi-awarded nominated The Tragedy of Macbeth in 2021, and the soon to be released chaotic lesbian sexploitation comedy Drive-Away Dolls from his brother Ethan.

Written by Coen and Tricia Cooke, Drive-Away Dolls follows the antics of Jamie (Margaret Qualley), a free spirited lesbian reeling from yet another breakup with a partner – Beanie Feldstein’s rage fuelled cop being the latest – and her demure friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan).  In search of a fresh start, the two embark on an impromptu road trip to Florida, but things quickly start to go pear-shaped when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals led by a sadistic villain played by Colman Domingo. 

One imagines this is the kind of movie both Coens would have spent their teenage years obsessing over and wishing they could make – Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Motorpsycho and Vixen! by Ross B Meyer spring to mind. Which would make sense why this would be something Coen would want to explore more closely.

While Meyer’s films were clearly of their time, especially at a time when many took advantage of a laxer attitude towards nudity brought on by the first wave of the feminist movement, these films still remained on the fringes of the industry and were predominantly shown in seedy grindhouse theatres. Which begs the question, haven’t we moved on from all that by now?

This is the kind of movie one makes when they are starting out in the movie business, not when they’ve spent years making some of the most memorable films in the history of cinema. Far from adding anything of substance to the sexploitation genre, Coen’s film feels a little on the awkwardly immature side.

As for the performances, they are often jarringly cartoonish and not to mention completely devoid of any kind of humour. With the exception of Geraldine Viswanathan’s performance, there is really nothing to write home about here, and nobody is more disappointed than I am. What can I tell you, this really ain’t it.