Unbelievable! ‘Daddio’ Reveals the Worst Cab Ride Ever – More Terrifying Than Hell?

Given the current culture of division and discord, the art of conversation has become a casualty. This unfortunate reality is reflected in the dialogues of movies, which often come across as explanatory, superficial, or pretentious. The movie “Daddio” attempts to bring back the importance of verbal dialogue, featuring two characters with contrasting life experiences confined to a yellow cab. The movie stars Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson, with one of them playing the role of a taxi driver.

Johnson’s character, an elegant computer programmer returning to JFK airport in New York from a trip to visit her older sister in Oklahoma, interacts with Penn’s character, Clark, a talkative, opinionated, and street-smart taxi driver. Clark, who has been married twice, shares his thoughts about the world and the complicated love life of his passenger throughout their journey. As Johnson’s character reveals pieces of her life, she reciprocates with insightful responses, trying to unravel Clark’s character.

Christy Hall, the writer and director, originally wrote the scenario as a stage play, and allows for extended dialogues in the movie. At times, the taxi isn’t even moving. Even during silent moments, there is an ongoing exchange as Johnson’s character nervously responds to a lover’s persistent sexting. This unseen lover becomes another topic for Clark’s speculations about male-female dynamics, as he observes the rearview mirror.

While watching “Daddio,” you won’t be on edge worrying about an unexpected or explosive event happening between the chauvinistic driver and the intelligent yet vulnerable female passenger, as she is capable of taking care of herself, as frequently noted by Clark. This lack of suspense is the movie’s weak point. The movie is less about a complex conversation between strangers and more about a writer’s calculated construction to bridge a cultural gap between genders. Hall is so focused on staging a climactic moment that overturns stereotypes and prompts emotional revelations that the natural flow and development of the story is sacrificed.

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The challenge for Hall in her directorial debut is to extract the maximum potential from just two characters and a single setting. This is probably why Jim Jarmusch opted for diversity in his 1991 taxi-themed movie “Night on Earth,” presenting five distinct narratives. That movie effectively conveyed a tangible sense of time and place.

In contrast, “Daddio” is less confident in its visual presentation and pacing. Despite having an experienced cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael, on board, Hall chooses an overly polished studio aesthetic that suggests complete control rather than an unpredictable atmosphere. There’s nothing wrong with a movie clearly filmed on a set, but the rehearsed elegance of Johnson and the effortless confidence of Penn make them appear more like the faces of a commercial for a fragrance called “Common Ground” rather than relatable characters. At times, it feels like they are not even in the same car, resulting in “Daddio” feeling like a protected environment when it requires an element of risk.

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