Review: Set Almost Entirely Inside a Taxi, Daddio Is an Enjoyable Ride with Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn

Sometimes the simplest idea is the most effective. Case in point: the feature debut from writer/director Christy Hall, Daddio, about two people in a New York City yellow taxi swapping stories and unburdening themselves of many of the hurdles life has thrown in their path. Dakota Johnson plays a character known only (and unfortunately) as Girlie, returning from her home state of Oklahoma where she visited her somewhat estranged sister and stirred up a wave of emotions in the process. Upon arriving at JFK Airport, she hops in a cab driven by Clark (Sean Penn), a chatterbox of a cabbie who seems genuinely curious about her life, and thanks to a few traffic jams on their way to her apartment, they have time to dig into all manner of topics and life experiences.

With rare exceptions, Daddio never leaves the confines of the taxi so the strength of the film rests squarely with the writing and the performances. Penn and Johnson are fantastic here, volleying observations about the other, justifying certain possible poor life choices (hers is currently being involved with a married man who seems to want little more than sex and will never leave his wife and children), and even a bit of flirting. Clark makes a strong case for her being nothing more than a side piece, even though she has strong feelings for her boyfriend, and she makes an almost equally strong case that this relationship is something more substantial than that. (It’s at about that moment when the boyfriend sends a dick pick, perhaps undercutting her argument.)

The conversation deepens over the course of the drive, with Clark sharing stories about meeting his first and second wives, while Johnson shares her feelings of abandonment by her father, which may have something to do with her search for a father figure in her lovers. The talk is frank, specific, salty at times, but never dull or trite (well, almost never), and I honestly could have listened to these two talk for another two hours. Even in this cab driver, the girl is seeking out the fatherly advice and comfort that she never got as a child, and it’s moving to see Clark slip into that role when he realizes that’s what she needs more than anything else in that moment.

To dive too much into the specifics of their conversation would be to ruin the fun of what they have to say, but by the end of their remarkable journey, they have become a kind of friends, and the whole experience leaves the audience feeling good and hopeful about the potential for dissimilar people to become useful to each other in times of need. It’s a slight slip of a film but it packs a few punches in just the right places.

The film is now playing in theaters.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.