FOCUS FEATURES

Margaret Qually and Geraldine Viswanathan set their sights on the MacGuffin in the trunk.

One of the many joys – and occasional frustrations – of the Coen Brothers is their consistent unpredictability. From the beginning of their career – which started with the markedly different (and remarkably accomplished) quartet of Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink – Joel and Ethan Coen have refused to conform to anyone’s expectations except their own. This principle has always guided the Coens’ work: Over 25 years ago, when I attended the press event for The Big Lebowski, the brothers were asked if they were worried about following up the relatively realistic Fargo and its multi-Oscar-winning success with a project that was so wildly different in tone. Ethan casually dismissed any concerns: “It might be a worry if we consistently worked in one genre, made one specific type of movie, and then suddenly switched to something else. But that’s not the case with us. We make different types of movies, and it might disappoint or please people who have seen our previous films. But it’s never really an issue. In our minds, they’re all just too different.”

Given their defiantly iconoclastic approach, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ethan Coen’s Drive-Away Dolls features queer content and playfully exuberant sex – neither of which have been evident in the filmmaker’s previous work. Because I purposely avoided reading about Drive-Away Dolls beforehand, I was completely caught off guard by the film’s focus on lesbian culture, and a nagging thought kept creeping in: Is the presumably heterosexual Coen the right director for this material? As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry: Coen’s wife, Tricia Cooke, although only credited as co-writer and editor due to Directors Guild rules, actually co-directed the film, and despite their long marriage, she still identifies as queer. As the couple explained in a joint interview with MovieMaker last year, Cooke told Coen that she was a lesbian when he first asked her out, but they eventually established a polyamorous relationship, with both having other partners. Normally, this personal backstory wouldn’t be relevant in a review, but knowing that Cooke was a primary driving force behind Drive-Away Dolls helped ease my concerns about Coen’s potentially leering male gaze and the authenticity of the film’s portrayal of the queer experience.

Of course, Drive-Away Dolls isn’t particularly concerned with realism in either its farcical plot or its colorful details. Early on, a comically wall-mounted dildo gives us a hint of the film’s fantastical nature: The phallus makes for an undeniably funny (and prescient) gag, but – and I’m just speculating here! – it would also seem somewhat, um, impractical. Proudly featuring a tr in a more engaging and journalistic writing style, make sure it is in complete sentences, remove any incomplete sentences, and make main headers either written in bold or a larger heading font size.

FOCUS FEATURES

Margaret Qually and Geraldine Viswanathan set their sights on the MacGuffin in the trunk.

One of the many joys – and occasional frustrations – of the Coen Brothers is their consistent unpredictability. From the beginning of their career – which started with the markedly different (and remarkably accomplished) quartet of Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink – Joel and Ethan Coen have refused to conform to anyone’s expectations except their own. This principle has always guided the Coens’ work: Over 25 years ago, when I attended the press event for The Big Lebowski, the brothers were asked if they were worried about following up the relatively realistic Fargo and its multi-Oscar-winning success with a project that was so wildly different in tone. Ethan casually dismissed any concerns: “It might be a worry if we consistently worked in one genre, made one specific type of movie, and then suddenly switched to something else. But that’s not the case with us. We make different types of movies, and it might disappoint or please people who have seen our previous films. But it’s never really an issue. In our minds, they’re all just too different.”

Given their defiantly iconoclastic approach, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ethan Coen’s Drive-Away Dolls features queer content and playfully exuberant sex – neither of which have been evident in the filmmaker’s previous work. Because I purposely avoided reading about Drive-Away Dolls beforehand, I was completely caught off guard by the film’s focus on lesbian culture, and a nagging thought kept creeping in: Is the presumably heterosexual Coen the right director for this material? As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry: Coen’s wife, Tricia Cooke, although only credited as co-writer and editor due to Directors Guild rules, actually co-directed the film, and despite their long marriage, she still identifies as queer. As the couple explained in a joint interview with MovieMaker last year, Cooke told Coen that she was a lesbian when he first asked her out, but they eventually established a polyamorous relationship, with both having other partners. Normally, this personal backstory wouldn’t be relevant in a review, but knowing that Cooke was a primary driving force behind Drive-Away Dolls helped ease my concerns about Coen’s potentially leering male gaze and the authenticity of the film’s portrayal of the queer experience.

Of course, Drive-Away Dolls isn’t particularly concerned with realism in either its farcical plot or its colorful details. Early on, a comically wall-mounted dildo gives us a hint of the film’s fantastical nature: The phallus makes for an undeniably funny (and prescient) gag, but – and I’m just speculating here! – it would also seem somewhat, um, impractical. Proudly featuring a transgender character, Drive-Away Dolls is a refreshing and engaging addition to the Coen Brothers’ repertoire. 

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