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Arts + CultureMoviesVroom, vroom: 'Drive-Away Dolls' stars catch some buzz at...

Vroom, vroom: ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ stars catch some buzz at Antique Vibrator Museum

Beanie Feldstein, Margaret Qualley, and Geraldine Viswanathan dish on their new lesbian action flick at Good Vibrations.

Gathered inside Good Vibrations’ Antique Vibrator Museum on Polk St., actresses Beanie Feldstein, Margaret Qualley, and Geraldine Viswanathan were like kids in a candy store.

The three main stars of Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke’s Drive-Away Dolls, in San Francisco promoting the new action-comedy, couldn’t help but feel giddy, surrounded by sex toys (which play a pivotal role in the film).

It was certainly a vibe.

“We’re surrounded by glass cases showcasing ancient devices like magic discs,” says Viswanathan. “There’s one with spikes that looks intimidating. We’re just learning a lot in here surrounded by the rich history of vibrators and pleasure.”

Feldstein started reading from an accompanying historical timeline, noting facts, such as how vibrator ads began appearing in women’s magazines in 1899; but by the ‘30s, they started disappearing from the same periodicals.

“I wouldn’t expect that,” she says.

Discussing these buzzy devices that were once so taboo seems so natural today, and the trio is glad that they’ve made their way from private bedside drawers into the public discourse.

Qualley makes her opinion on the matter known by busting out her best Salt-N-Pepa—”Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me”—before the other two join in.

“Let’s remove the stigma because it is a part of life,” adds Viswanathan. “We’re all here because of sex, so it’s weird to not talk about it. Like the song says, ‘Let’s talk about sex.’”

Drive-Away Dolls (opening nationwide on Thu/24), about three lesbians who get in over their heads after coming into possession of a briefcase whose contents could destroy a conservative politician’s career, does much to encourage similar conversations about sex and sexuality. The movie is set in 1999, but it tackles sexual issues in a frank manner that’s very 2024.

I spoke to its three main stars—who play characters Sukie, Jamie, and Marian—about the good vibes on set, how the film moves early noir and B-movies into more feminist territory, and why the greatest danger to the film’s plot is not a dildo but a smartphone.

48 HILLS You were fans of each other’s work before collaborating on this project. Did working together defy any preconceived notions?

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN I’d only seen Margaret in dramatic roles where she’s usually quite sad. I had seen Maid, which is beautiful and brilliant but heartbreaking and sad. And then meeting Margaret and being like, “Oh, this girl is crazy and so funny. She’s cracking me up.” So she surprised me in that regard. Then, Beanie is scarier than we all ever knew. Yeah, because she’s a sweetie pie. But she can be scary. 

MARGARET QUALLEY She can lay down the law.

BEANIE FELDSTEIN I’ve mostly seen Geraldine play the more wacky, crazy comedic role. So to see you anchor this dynamic with such a grounded, subtle comedic performance was so exciting. 

When I read the script to audition, I knew they were attached. But I read it opposite, with Margaret as Marian and Geraldine as Jamie, because that’s more what I had seen you both do. When I found out it was the other way, I was like, “Ethan and Tricia’s genius is having us play against what people expect of us.” That is a joy both to do and to witness in the two of your performances.

48 HILLS How closely do the characters match who you are as people?

BEANIE FELDSTEIN For me. I’m still playing the opposite. But I got to bring out a real angry, bitter side of myself that felt nice.

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN Every character pulls out a part of you. At first, I was like, “I’m not like Marian at all; I’m a freak. I’m a crazy girl.” But then, spending more time with the character, I said, “Wait, no.” I related to her more than I thought and got to tap into my more sensitive and romantic, old-school side. So that was surprising.

48 HILLS In the film, the three women go on a crazy adventure. When you think back to the wackiest adventures you’ve experienced in your lives, what comes to mind?

MARGARET QUALLEY What comes to mind is that I will not be telling you.

48 HILLS But your character was so open and liberated.

MARGARET QUALLEY We’re playing against type, sir. [Laughs]

48 HILLS The film takes inspiration from the ‘60s and ‘70s B-movies and early noir. How does this movie take those genres into more feminist territories?

BEANIE FELDSTEIN Just the nature of having two women at the center of the action. The women have all the best parts. 

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN This is Ethan supporting Tricia and her vision. It’s ladies to the front. 

MARGARET QUALLEY It feels like a love letter to Tricia. 

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN And in terms of the way that sexuality is depicted, it’s very unapologetic yet doesn’t feel gratuitous, unnecessary, or exploitative. It feels silly and genuine. 

MARGARET QUALLEY It feels funny—not hot. It’s not about trying to excite you that way. 

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN It doesn’t feel male-gaze-y. Even when we were shooting those scenes, it felt very comfortable and safe to the point where Ethan was playing music over our sex scenes, so we didn’t have to make the noises. 

MARGARET QUALLEY Speak for yourself. I was like “Ahhhhhhhhhhh.” [Laughs]

BEANIE FELDSTEIN It’s summed up in the moment where one of the goons says he can’t fight back because he can’t hit a girl as I’m strangling the other one and just rolling my eyes. That’s the energy of the movie; it’s just that eye roll.

48 HILLS The film was set in 1999 when Y2K and the upcoming presidential election were on everyone’s minds, and, of course, far fewer people had cell phones. How does setting the film 25 years ago impact the plot?

BEANIE FELDSTEIN Phones would kill the plot.

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN This genre is tough with phones. I think the tone of the era was a lot of uncertainty and excitement—like on the precipice of something. I feel like the ‘90s seemed like a cool time. If I could go back to any era, I think it would be the ‘90s. It just felt like things were booming and people were having fun. And maybe that’s romanticizing it because I was a baby. But it seemed like a good era. I love ‘90s movies. 

BEANIE FELDSTEIN Also, they wrote it originally in the ‘90s, so it made sense. But the end of 1999 feels like an energizing moment. That’s a great energy to go into an adventure with. 

Drive-Away Dolls opens Fri/23 at AMC Metreon 16 and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema New Mission.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter is a contributing writer for 48 Hills. He’s also written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle, and CNET.

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