Drive-Away Dolls: A Wild Detour in the Coen Brothers’ Filmography

Discover the surprising contrast in styles between the Coen brothers’ individual projects during their hiatus, as Joel Coen’s austere Macbeth and Ethan Coen’s goofier road comedy Drive-Away Dolls showcase their unique approaches. Explore the sweetest love story in the Coen brothers’ filmography, set against the backdrop of the eve of Y2K and the conservative resurgence.

Joel Coen’s Austere Approach in Macbeth

Joel Coen, one half of the renowned Coen brothers, showcases his distinct style in his solo venture into the world of Macbeth. Known for their synchronicity as a filmmaking duo, the Coen brothers have often been referred to as ‘the two-headed director’ due to their uncanny ability to provide the same answer to any question, even when asked separately. However, their individual projects during their brief hiatus from working together reveal a fascinating contrast in their styles.

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( Credit to: Theguardian )

In Macbeth, Joel Coen takes an austere and atmospheric approach, stripping away all levity and color. This stripped-down aesthetic creates a haunting and intense atmosphere, perfectly suited for Shakespeare’s tragic tale of ambition and betrayal. Coen’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in every frame, as he crafts a visually stunning and emotionally resonant adaptation of the classic play.

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( Credit to: Theguardian )

While Macbeth may differ from the Coen brothers’ previous works in terms of subject matter, it still bears their signature style. Coen’s mastery of visual storytelling, combined with his ability to elicit powerful performances from his actors, shines through in this film. Macbeth is a testament to Joel Coen’s talent as a filmmaker and his ability to bring a fresh perspective to a well-known story.

Ethan Coen’s Goofier Road Comedy in Drive-Away Dolls

On the other hand, Ethan Coen, the other half of the Coen brothers, presents a contrasting style in his solo project, Drive-Away Dolls. While Joel’s Macbeth is austere and atmospheric, Ethan’s road comedy takes a goofier and more relaxed approach. This divergence in styles showcases the versatility of the Coen brothers as individual filmmakers.

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( Credit to: Theguardian )

Drive-Away Dolls follows the story of Jamie, an incorrigible horndog, and Marian, a buttoned-up companion, as they embark on a journey to Florida with some unexpected cargo. Along the way, they encounter hitmen and a wiseacre character, creating a familiar narrative landscape reminiscent of previous Coen films. However, Drive-Away Dolls also situates its libido-driven chase on the eve of Y2K, offering a fresh exploration of the twilight of Clintonism and the conservative resurgence.

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( Credit to: Theguardian )

While Drive-Away Dolls may seem like a departure from the Coen brothers’ usual style, it is far from minor Coen miscellanea. Ethan Coen brings his own unique perspective to the table, infusing the film with his brand of humor and creating a bawdy Sapphic joyride that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Surprising Openness of Sentiment in Drive-Away Dolls

What sets Drive-Away Dolls apart from previous Coen films is its surprising openness of sentiment. Contrary to the self-satisfied ironic remove often associated with their characters, this film presents the sweetest love story in the Coen brothers’ filmography. Jamie’s search for a good time is met with a giddy willingness to explore the possibility of something more meaningful in life.

While Drive-Away Dolls retains the Coen brothers’ trademark dialogue, with its baroque turns of phrase and philosophical musings, it dials back on the archness of technique and allusive streak that has divided critics in the past. The influence for this film comes more from their own half-formed notions of sleaze champions like Doris Wishman and Russ Meyer, rather than direct references to their work. The essence of the Coen brothers’ style shines through in the dialogue, which is predominantly applied to euphemisms for sexual encounters.

This departure from seriousness does come with a cost, as the directorial rigor is slightly less meticulous compared to their previous works. The camera placement, often a source of comedic brilliance in Joel’s films, may not be as sharp in Drive-Away Dolls. However, there are moments of emotional and associative visual language that add depth to the storytelling. Additionally, the film indulges in cheesy wipe-style scene transitions and hazy psychedelic passages, reminiscent of That 70s Show, which may polarize viewers.

A Wild Detour Filled with Unexpected Twists and Turns

Drive-Away Dolls is a wild detour in the Coen brothers’ filmography, showcasing an artist, Ethan Coen, regaining his capacity to find pleasure in the filmmaking process. Despite its casual gait, this film is an essential addition to the Coen brothers’ body of work, representing an evolution rather than a regression or sacrifice. It demonstrates that even a preponderance of dick jokes can herald a newfound advance in maturity.

Drive-Away Dolls is currently playing in Australian cinemas, with a release date of 23 February in the United States and 15 March in the United Kingdom.

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