The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Daddio

By George & Josh Bate

Daddio review

Everyone has been in a taxi or an Uber and engaged in some level of conversation with the driver. Often, the purpose of these conversations is purely the transmission of information (i.e., driver asking the passenger where they wish to be dropped off), but sometimes these conversations tap into something deeper and more personal. Those who have had the opportunity to have such deeper conversations may have immersed themselves within the world and culture of a total stranger and got to connect on some personal level with the driver, even if it is just for a single car ride. This relatively commonplace scenario serves as the backdrop for Daddio, a contained drama film from writer/director Christy Hall in her directorial debut.

Daddio follows a young woman we know simply as Girlie (played by Dakota Johnson), who touches down at New York City’s JFK Airport after a short trip away. Girlie hops into the backseat of a yellow taxi driven by Clark (played by Sean Penn) and the two make a journey through the night to Manhattan. Taking place entirely within the confines of the taxi, Daddio shows the developing conversations between Girlie and Clark as they learn about one another and themselves in unexpected ways.

Daddio review

The premise of Daddio seems perfect for a stage production, especially given writer/director Christy Hall’s experience as a playwright. However, Hall states that this story was always intended to be a film. And, as a film, Daddio takes on a number of admirable challenges right off the bat. The entirety of the film unfolds as conversations between two characters inside the claustrophobic and intimate setting of a taxi. It remains firmly grounded in reality, never delving into horror or thriller territory. In turn, what results is a conversation between two characters that unfolds over 90 minutes, a conversation that the audience gets to be a fly-on-the-wall for. Confident in its approach and admirable for taking on the challenges of having so few characters and containing the film to a single, confined premise, Daddio is undoubtedly an admirable effort from Hall and company. Unfortunately, the result of these efforts is a slow and misguided film.

Fundamentally, the conversation between Johnson’s Girlie and Penn’s Clark fails to evoke much emotion or interest. The two touch on a range of heavy topics, including intimate relationships, tough family upbringings, love, sex, identity, and more, during their lengthy conversation, but seldom does this interaction elicit the type of emotional reaction intended by the filmmakers. Girlie and Clark are two fairly unlikable characters, especially as aspects of their backstories and worldviews come to light, despite the best efforts of Penn and Johnson to breathe life into the driver and passenger respectively. For a film so exclusively centered around a conversation between two characters, it is unfortunate that this conversation is, at best, tolerable and, at worst, boring and frustrating. 

Daddio review

With little emotional nuance or excitement to the conversation, the car ride from JFK to Manhattan ends up being a rather excruciating one. What one hoped would evoke the sort of insightful and intimate conversations that can occur between you and a taxi/Uber driver is, instead, more akin to a prolonged, boring car ride where every minute passes by frustratingly slowly.

All of this culminates in a grand finale as Girlie and Clark arrive at their destination. The musical score by Dickon Hinchliffe (which, admittedly, is excellent) swells, Penn and Johnson deliver arguably their strongest acting of the film, and yet very little emotional movement occurs in what should be the big, emotional culmination of this car journey. Whether the failure of this ending to evoke any substantive emotion is more due to the unlikability of the characters or the sheer boredom of the proceeding conversation is unclear, but the end result is one that puts a disappointing cherry on top of a disappointing cake,

VERDICT: 3.5/10

Daddio takes on some admirable challenges in only featuring two characters and restricting them to a single, confined setting for the entirety of the film. Unfortunately, what is admirable in conception ultimately fails in execution in a film that neither draws interest nor evokes much emotion. Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson do their best with mediocre material, but their charisma is not enough to make unlikable characters anything more than people we simply don’t like spending time with. Their 90+ minute conversation taps into a number of heavy topics, including gender roles and family backgrounds, with surprisingly little emotion or intrigue. What was intended to evoke the sort of insightful conversations that can unfold between a taxi/Uber driver and a passenger ends up being more akin to a frustrating car ride in which boredom prevails and the minutes pass by excruciatingly slowly.

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