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'Daddio' review: Dakota Johnson, Sean Penn, and some weird taxicab confessions

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics


A challenging endeavor no matter who is doing it, let alone your debut feature, writer-director Christy Hall’s “Daddio” is an intimate, two-hander that, for nearly its entire 100-minute runtime, takes place within the confines of a taxi. It features the star power of both Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson and while their exchanges and interactions can sometimes steer into some interesting, thoughtful conversations surrounding love, loss, and human connection, it’s also a film that struggles to punch above its weight class. The entire movie relies on if the audience believes this encounter between two lost souls might feel authentic, and for long stretches, especially as Penn’s philosophical, Hell’s Kitchen based soothsayer taxi driver begins divvying out sage life advice, it never does. 


Johnson plays a hardened New Yorker (she isn’t given a name but is credited as “Girlie” in the end credits), who has just flown into JFK after a brief trip back to her hometown in Oklahoma and hailed a taxi. Her phone is getting blown up by what appears to be her boyfriend (his name is only listed as “L”) who is in search of some explicit content. A few minutes pass and her driver, Clark (Sean Penn) compliments how she’s unplugged from technology and staying present in the moment. This opens the floodgates for more candid conversation and Clark, who we later find out enjoys pushing the boundaries of friendly conversation, starts asking questions that anyone with common sense would find intrusive. Are we supposed to trust this guy? There’s no way this attractive blonde woman would engage with him, right?


Well, it’s not long before these characters become chummy, after conveniently running into a massive traffic jam, and get involved in a metaphorical chess match to one-up each other on their own personal traumas. We learn quite a bit about who these people are and what they hope to accomplish with their lives, but it all feels like one giant cliché. Penn, sporting a heavy accent, is your stereotypical know-it-all cabbie, though I will say this one doesn’t have the wherewithal to censor himself. He’s unafraid of saying questionable things (he talks at length about his various sexual encounters) that would leave anyone stranded in the back seat of a car very uncomfortable. Hell, I was uncomfortable for the “girlie” who not only has to deal with this dude giving out unsolicited (and frankly) odd commentary on her relationships, but is fielding several calls and texts (complete with dick pics) from “L” who is looking to score.


“Daddio” is a repetitive and uninspired experiment that doesn’t translate into anything meaningful. It’s obviously meant to invoke a serendipitous feeling or the curveball’s life can throw at you or how a chance encounter might offer insight into the way you’re living, but Hall doesn’t challenge the audience nor are the conversations, which deal with routine takes on infidelity and gender dynamics, even remotely thought provoking. It’s a taxi ride that goes nowhere.


Grade: C- 


DADDIO opens in select theaters (including those in Michigan) Friday, July 28th


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