Drive-Away Dolls Ending Explained: What’s In The Mystery Briefcase And The Wild True Story That Inspired The Movie

Film News

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Drive-Away Dolls. If you have not yet seen the film, proceed at your own risk!

Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke’s Drive-Away Dolls is primarily a road trip comedy about two lesbian pals growing closer on a trip to Tallahassee, but at the heart of the plot is a mystery. The car they are driving around in has a mysterious briefcase and hatbox locked in the trunk, and though the audience isn’t informed about the contents, it’s made clear that a criminal element will go very far to reacquire the containers. Is it money? Is it drugs? The answer is “neither,” and the actual answer is not something you’d ever imagine.

Not only does Drive-Away Dolls feature a terrific surprise, but there is more depth to the material than you may realize, as the story is partially inspired by a true story. I’ve put together this feature to break it all down, and I’ll start by answering the film’s big question…

Pedro Pascal in Drive-Away Dolls

(Image credit: Focus Features)

What’s In The Briefcase And The Hatbox That Jamie And Marian Accidentally Transport In Drive-Away Dolls?

It’s about halfway through Drive-Away Dolls that Jamie and Marian discover the unexpected cargo that is stashed in the trunk of their car, but the revelations of the hatbox and briefcase contents come out individually from that point forward. The former comes first, and what’s inside is horrifying: it’s the head of Santos a.k.a. The Collector (Pedro Pascal), who we see get murdered in the film’s opening scene.

As for what’s in the briefcase, Jamie and Marian learn that information before it’s offered to the audience. Drive-Away Dolls attempts a touch of misdirection, making the audience think that it’s money by having the protagonists check into a fancy hotel instead of a crummy roadside motel, but that’s not the truth. What’s inside the case is a collection of plaster penises that are modeled after the genitals of celebrities.

The reason why The Chief (Colman Domingo) and his goons (C.J. Wilson and Joey Slotnick) are after the case is because they have been employed by Florida Senator Gary Channel (Matt Damon), who is in the midst of a campaign. When Channel was younger, he took a psychedelic and had an encounter with an artist named Tiffney Plaster Caster (Miley Cyrus), and it was during that encounter that she made a plaster mold of his penis. Running as a conservative candidate, he doesn’t want the existence of the phallic art piece to be public knowledge, and so he is willing to go to great lengths to acquire it – including murder.

Geraldine Viswanathan and Margaret Qualley with suitcase in Drive-Away Dolls

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Tiffney Plaster Caster Is Based On Cynthia Plaster Caster, A Real Person Known For Making Plaster Casts Of Celebrity Penises

Drive-Away Dolls is an entirely fictional film invented in the imaginations of Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke, but it does borrow a bit from real life with the introduction of Tiffney Plaster Caster. While there is no actual “Tiffney Plaster Caster,” the character is based on artist Cynthia Plaster Caster: an artist who was famous for making plaster molds of musician genitalia.

With inspiration from Frank Zappa, Cynthia Plaster Caster (real name Cynthia Dorothy Albritton) began making her penis art in the late 1960s, and one of her first subjects was Jimi Hendrix. She made dozens of these casts, but she was best known for her “collaboration” with Hendrix, and the “piece” was donated to the Icelandic Phallological Museum in 2022. In addition to working with men, Plaster Caster also made casts of female musicians’ breasts, including Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Lætitia Sadier from Stereolab.

Sadly, Cynthia Plaster Caster passed away in April 2022, shortly before the start of production of Drive-Away Dolls, but the film is a nice tribute to her work and legacy.

Matt Damon with a briefcase in Drive-Away Dolls

(Image credit: Focus Features)

What The Filmmakers Have To Say About The Drive-Away Dolls Mystery

Earlier this month, I attended a screening of Drive-Away Dolls at the Vidiots theater in Los Angeles, and it was followed by a moderated Q&A with Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke. The filmmakers were specifically asked about the Cynthia Plaster Caster reveal and how it became a part of the script.

Coen couldn’t identify when the idea was conjured or how exactly it entered the conversation, but he explained that at one point during the writing process it was the proverbial elephant in the room. They had the basic plot of the movie figured out, but they recognized there was a lot of pressure on delivering a satisfying answer to the big mystery. Said the writer/director,

I can’t actually remember when, or which of us or both of us [thought of it]… There’s this thing: ‘Ok, there’s a case. They have a drive-away car, and there’s a case in it that has something mysterious and the bad guys are after it.’ And at a certain point, as a writer, you’re confronted with it. You have to actually figure out what’s in the case. And since you’re making such a big deal about it, it’s easy for it to be disappointing. You need there to be something really, really good in the case. So one of us, both of us went, ‘Ok, case full of dicks!’

Following up her co-writer/co-director’s comments, Tricia Cooke told the moderator that both she and Ethan Coen were already well-aware of the legend of Cynthia Plaster Caster prior to working on the Drive-Away Dolls script, and it eventually clicked that her story would be a funny match for the narrative. Cooke said,

We’re both big fans of Cynthia Plaster Caster. She came in very early in the script writing process. It was like, ‘Ok, case of dicks, Cynthia Plaster Caster.’ And that all kind of came together easily.

Drive-Away Dolls has its flaws, as I note in my CinemaBlend review of the movie, but the big reveal is phenomenal and a perfect payoff to all of the setup.

Starring Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Bill Camp, and Matt Damon, Drive-Away Dolls is now playing in theaters everywhere. To learn about all of the films set to be released both on the big screen and on streaming between now and the end of the year, check out our 2024 Movie Release Calendar.

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