Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“Goodbye Dolls”: A nostalgic comedy that is a must-see

  • “Goodbye Dolls” is Ethan Coean’s first independent film, which he created with his older brother Joel.
  • The film is a return to the atmosphere of the brothers’ first films, such as “Arizona Rising” and “Hudsucker Proxy”
  • At the same time, it is a nostalgic postcard from the United States in the late 1990s

This is not a surprise, since Ethan Coen wrote the script with Tricia Cooke, privately his wife and editor of many of the Coens’ films, including such cult and iconic comedies as “The Big Lebowski”, “Brother Where Art Thou” or “Barton Fink”. So “Goodbye Dolls” is a classic B-class Coen variation with great dialogues, black grotesque and the brothers’ friends playing in self-parodic tones. Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal. However, they are not the ones who play the first violin in this amazingly liberated lesbian road movie. Non-ideologically liberated. Liberated in the spirit of Yankee road movies with a middle finger tattooed on his forehead with the word “freedom”.

The year is 1999, so the end of Clinton’s carefree America, where the world was safe, democracy defeated the Evil Empire and everything was heading towards the “end of history”. Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) rent a car and head towards Florida (as we know, that’s where Al Gore eventually lost to George W. Bush and, according to generous liberals, the terrible story began again). They don’t know, however, that they are carrying a package in the trunk that will be followed by two gangsters (Joey Slotnick, CJ Wilson), who are taken out of “Fargo”. They are as stupid as Buscemi and Stormare, although less brutal. Jamie and Marian are friends who love each other despite great differences in character. Platonically in love with each other, although both are lesbians. Speaking with a Texas accent “No country for old men” Jamie is a party girl who loves sexual conquests, while Marian is a “girl next door” who represses her sexuality and ponders all possible dilemmas in her head. Like, in the Coen brothers, I’m sorry, in Mr. and Mrs. Coen, ordinary people get into extraordinary trouble.

“Goodbye Dolls” is different from the Coens’ recent, highly cynical films. Jamie and Marian are heroines who are easy to love, despite (or maybe because of them?) their clumsiness and, at a moment, even their knighthood. They could easily hit the road across Arizona with Nicolas Cage and beat the hell out of the cute idiots from “Confidential.” Moreover, the unpretentious and absurd humor of the “dolls” is reminiscent of this underrated satire by the Coens. Here we have a mysterious suitcase straight from… “Pulp Fiction”, adult gadgets that are more valuable than Tony Montana’s powder, and the wonderfully neurotic Beanie Feldstein as Jamie’s jilted, pissed-off lover armed with a pesky dog. The female trio has comedic timing, and the emerging passion is convincing.

Added to this is the sentimentality of the late 1990s, when the US was entering a new era. In Coen’s work, the return of the right wing, which he dislikes, is in the air (“Who are you?” a right-wing hypocrite senator asks Jamie and Marian, to which they respond with Thelma and Louise expressions: we are Democrats!), but the girls also announce the LGBT revolution , which was just gaining momentum at the turn of the century. What touched me the most was seeing a world without ubiquitous phones, social media and artificial intelligence. Back then, coffee at a roadside diner tasted better, rebellion was less controlled, and you could meet Jeff Lebowski walking lazily on the road with a satellite phone the size of a Smart car. There was such a world once, but it left with “Drive-Away Dolls”. Well, but maybe someone somewhere still reads “The Europeans” by Henry James, where puritanical America met libertine Europe? However, in the era of Donald Trump, such divisions no longer matter.


“Goodbye dolls” (Drive-Away Dolls), dir. Ethan Coen, USA/Great Britain 2024, distribution: United International Pictures, cinema premiere: February 23, 2024