Ethan Coen’s Drive-Away Dolls Is An LGBT Movie That Isn’t About ‘The Pain Of Being Gay’ – Exclusive

In recent years, legendary filmmakers the Coen brothers – Ethan and Joel – have been working on separate projects. In 2021, we got Joel’s stark take on The Tragedy Of Macbeth. 2022 saw Ethan go solo for documentary Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble In Mind – and now, he’s readying a fiction film. Drive-Away Dolls is ostensibly Ethan Coen’s solo debut, though it’s actually a collaboration with his wife and longtime editor Tricia Cooke – and it’s a lesbian road movie, a crime caper with its foot on the gas, packed with colourful characters.

For Coen (and Cooke, who has identified as a lesbian since her teenage years, the pair describing their 30-year marriage as “unconventional”) it was always the intent to make a rollocking romp together. “Neither of us was going to make a mopey lesbian movie, not being capable of that,” he tells Empire. “There are movies about the pain of being gay. That can be a good movie or a bad movie, like any other, but that is not something we were going to do. We have people for that.” Instead, it stars Margaret Qualley as the free-spirited Jamie, fleeing from a break-up along with uptight friend Marian (Blockers’ Geraldine Viswanathan) as they hit the road to Tallahassee, getting caught up in criminal business en route.

The film originated with an idea Cooke had around 20 years ago, and a small amount of rewriting took place from an earlier scripted version – though it’s still set in the 1990s. “We had written it as a lesbian movie, and the queer world is a lot broader now, so we felt it would be dated if we made it more contemporary,” she explains. “Also, it’s a caper where people can’t necessarily connect, so we didn’t want there to be smartphones, that kind of thing. Back then we wanted to make a genre movie, because we lacked those in the LGBT world. There really weren’t a lot of comedies for the queer world; still aren’t.”

Together, Cooke and Coen seem to have had a blast going broad and brash. “I’ll go on the record and say that I dragged Ethan down into the lowbrow,” she says. “It was definitely me saying, ‘How low can we go?’” And there are plans for the two to collaborate again – potentially on a more serious lesbian detective story, albeit with “funny bits” – while Ethan notes that he and Joel are “working on writing something” together again. Whichever comes first, it seems the Coen-Coen-Cooke trifecta are putting pedal to the metal

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