Photo courtesy Focus Features

Joel and Ethan Coen have spent their lengthy career writing and directing movies with a unique style that ranges from quirky and comedic to deadly serious.

But what is interesting about the Coen Brothers is that all of their movies (a handful of which are masterpieces) contain some mix of salty and sweet.

Even at their most bleak (think “No Country for Old Men” or “Fargo”), a touch of whimsy or silliness still manages to find its way on screen. At the same time, even when they are at their most light-hearted (think “The Big Lebowski” or “Raising Arizona”) dark shadows creep in around the edges.

Until recently though, it was impossible to tell from the outside looking in where one brother stopped and the other began, because they always worked together.

That mystery has been totally revealed, as each brother now has a solo film under their belt making it clear that Joel and Ethan are opposite sides of the same coin.

In 2021 Joel directed “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” a Shakespeare adaptation with visual flair and dedication to a plot that has been downer for 500 years. In theaters now, Ethan has “Drive-Away Dolls,” a screwball romp that breezes in and out in a crisp 84 minutes without having much to say. Draw your own conclusions.

“Drive-Away Dolls” has the loose vibes of an off-beat Coen Brothers crime caper where two young ladies accidentally get caught up in a criminal conspiracy.

Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) have an odd-couple friendship as Jamie is a free-spirit who leaves a string of broken-hearted girlfriends in her wake while Marian is uptight with few dating prospects of her own.

The pair decide they need a change of scenery and embark on a road trip to visit Marian’s aunt in Tallahassee, Florida. To get there they utilize a “drive-away” service where they are responsible for delivering the car they are driving to a client at their destination.

As it turns out, the girls are mistakenly given a car with a valuable briefcase hidden in the trunk meant to be transported by some low-level criminals.

A cross-country chase ensues while Jamie and Marian engage in various sexual exploits along the way. Qualley and Viswanathan have good chemistry and turn in solid performances, but the stakes here couldn’t be lower.

Heavy hitters in the supporting cast like Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal and Matt Damon are so barely-there they should be considered extras. The best thing about the movie is Beanie Feldstein who plays Sukie, one of Jamie’s ex-girlfriends who is a tough-as-nails cop with a quick temper.

“Drive-Away Dolls” has a lot of spirit, it just gets lost along the way. I fully support Joel and Ethan striking out and doing their own thing, but it’s clear they need each other to balance out their sharp flavors.

“Drive-Away Dolls” is rated R for crude sexual content, full nudity, language and some violent content.

You might also like...