Thursday, February 29, 2024

Driven away

Australia is, or at least once was, known for letting movies hang around in the cinema for ages. I frequently marveled at how a movie released in March was still available in August, and sometimes commented on it here. (That might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.)

You know Drive-Away Dolls isn't great when it is already retreating to the smallest screening rooms and way fewer showtimes after only a week in theaters. 

I know Drive-Away Dolls isn't great because I saw it yesterday.

I know Drive-Away Dolls really isn't great because a beguiling performance by Geraldine Viswanathan was only enough to bring it up to two stars. (You can read my full review here.)

There were some lesbians in my audience who seemed to be enjoying it, so I know there is at least a possibility I would have liked it more if I had been giving it the pass you give movies that speak very specifically to something about you. Like as soon as they make the world's first movie about fantasy baseball, I'm sure I will give it five stars on Letterboxd, no matter how shit it might be.

But I'm not going to sit here and berate myself for not being queer enough to like Drive-Away Dolls. I think it's just a bad movie. 

And I guess most audiences do too, considering that my Wednesday showing (after last Thursday's debut) was in the smallest screening room at Cinema Kino, and when I checked the Sun in Yarraville to see if there was a more optimal showtime to catch on my way home from work, I noticed that the day's latest showing had been at 1:45.

It's now another Thursday release day -- Dune 2 comes out today, very exciting -- and Drive-Away Dolls has survived at both of these theaters. It's even got a nighttime screening at the Sun, though only the 6:50 slot, not the primetme slot. 

At Kino, it is playing only once, at 1:20.

So what drove me -- and presumably others -- away from Drive-Away Dolls?

If you followed the link to my review, you already know, but it's two words:

Margaret Qualley.

Like mother, like daughter I suppose -- or maybe, dislike mother, dislike daughter.

I'm not going to make a whole post out of this because I already regret the traction that my post "Anybody but Andie MacDowell" gets. I guess any traffic to your site is good traffic, but the internet seems to have glommed on to my posts that allow them to indulge in some sort of negative take on an actress. My post about Gaby Hoffman gets a lot of engagement, and the one about Andie MacDowell I wrote in 2010 has had 7,835 views and 21 comments.  

The premise of that post was that if anyone other than Andie MacDowell had appeared in two personal favorites -- Four Weddings and a Funeral and Groundhog Day -- then I might like those movies even better. (Though I also ended up saying that if changing a single thing about them made me like them any bit less, I wouldn't risk it.) I got into a few specific things I don't like about her as a performer. I won't rehash them here.

The same things I don't like about Andie MacDowell, I don't like about Margaret Qualley. But Qualley doesn't have a great movie propping her up a bit -- or not one where she plays a central role, anyway.

I saw Qualley in several movies (Palo Alto, The Nice Guys, Death Note) before I really made note of her or her connection to MacDowell. I really like The Nice Guys but I don't even remember what her role was in it. I don't think I had made the MacDowell connection yet either with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but I do remember Qualley being one of Manson's crazies, which seemed appropriate since there is something in her eyes I don't like. Interestingly, Sydney Sweeney was also a Manson crazy and I have gone on to love her. Not so much Qualley.

By the time of Claire Denis' Stars at Noon, I knew she was MacDowell's daughter and I really, really didn't like this movie. As one of the two main characters (along with Taylor Swift's ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn), Qualley bore the brunt of my dislike. A similar two-hander -- a lot more of a two-hander than Stars at Noon -- was last year's Sanctuary, parts of which I liked. Overall, it was too much time with Margaret Qualley. She was in a top 12 movie for me last year, Poor Things, but see my previous comments about the amount of screen time she gets. Not much in Poor Things.

And now Drive-Away Dolls, where she's turned up to Nigel Tufnel's 11 with her exaggerated southern mannerisms and cartoonish love of pussy.

I already found a couple creative ways to rip her in that review so I will stop talking about Margaret Qualley now.

Because Ethan Coen also deserves a significant helping of my scorn.

Another observation I made in that review was that if we were to take the Coen brothers' two solo efforts as indications of the sorts of tone each brother prefers, we'd conclude that Joel was more responsible for the direction of a film like No Country for Old Men (which is not one of my Coen favorites) while Ethan would be more responsible for something like Raising Arizona (which is not only my favorite Coen movie of all time, it's my favorite movie of all time). 

The trouble is, there is a far greater range of outcomes for a movie in the Raising Arizona mold. There is worshipping it as I do, and there is hating it, which is how I feel about something like Burn After Reading. Zaniness is great unless it's terrible. 

The zaniness in Drive-Away Dolls is terrible, and Qualley has been asked to personify it from start to finish. (Sorry, I said I would stop banging on about her.)

The final reference I will make to my review is that I said that apparently Joel does not need Ethan but Ethan needs Joel. (I can't be accused of stealing good lines if I am stealing them from myself.) I may not prefer that the output of the Coens is all in the mold of The Tragedy of Macbeth, but that film did make my top ten in 2021. And if DAD is any indication, Ethan may no longer be able to hit the high end of the range of outcomes for this sort of movie.

I'm regretting, now, the decision to stack my chips on a viewing of Drive-Away Dolls yesterday when I might have been better served to use my wife's good graces to get to an opening night viewing of Dune 2 tonight.

Then again, lo and behold, it's February 29th again -- meaning the revival of my tradition, which dates back to 2008, to watch the worst movie I can find.

Tune in tomorrow to see what that ended up being. 

And I hope it's worse than Drive-Away Dolls. I really do. 

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