Daddio, 2024, 2 ½ stars

Taxi to the dull side

This cab ride is too pedestrian

Image copyright Sony Pictures Classics

Exclusive to MeierMovies, June 30, 2024

“I know people. I don’t drive a cab 20 years and not know people.”

Those words from Sean Penn’s cabbie in Daddio, the debut feature from Christy Hall, ring true. But that still doesn’t mean Dakota Johnson’s character, a gorgeous 30-something with seemingly nothing in common with her driver, would spill her guts to him during an hour-and-a-half, $52 ride from JFK Airport to Midtown Manhattan.

And therein lies the main fault with the film, which is otherwise a fairly well acted, intriguing, minimalist drama. Yes, her character, known only as “girlie,” is at an emotional crossroads, but the premise is still a tough sell. Perhaps if the characters had spent more time addressing society’s issues rather than their own, in the style of My Dinner with Andre, this two-hander would have been easier to swallow. But except for a spot-on assessment of our overreliance on apps, the conversation stays mostly personal, focusing on issues of family, self-worth and romantic relationships. (The film’s title presumably refers to a much older man with whom “girlie” is involved.)

To overcome the contrivance, the performances would have to be Oscar-worthy, and they never rise to that level, particularly Johnson’s. In addition, Hall’s script offers too few revelations, except at the end. But by then, a twist is expected, if only to give the film a raison d’être. So its reveal seems forced. Ultimately, thanks either to its spareness, contrivance or lack of genuine surprises, or all three, Daddio ends up dull.

The film might appear technically simple, but it’s not easy to re-create a real-time ride on a route many filmgoers know by heart. I’ll let those New York natives among us decide whether the movie gets it exactly right, but this non-New Yorker was completely convinced. Even more astonishingly, the taxi interiors were shot on a soundstage utilizing LED video screens. Think how far we’ve come from rear projection and green screen.

But cleverly executed visuals, sharp editing and well-meaning performances aren’t quite enough for Daddio. It’s often engaging, even when it relies on overused inserts of text messages and mobile-phone screens. But just like all the taxi rides I’ve taken in my life, I forgot this one as soon as the cab door slammed shut.

© 2024 MeierMovies, LLC

For more information about this movie, visit Wikipedia and IMDBThe film is currently showing in theaters.