MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 28, 2024: DADDIO

Two strangers make an unexpectedly meaningful connection in writer-director Christy Hall’s feature debut, Daddio. Play-like in the simplicity of its setting and focus on dialogue, this “two hander” drama is a fascinating character study that features nuanced, memorable performances by stars Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson as, respectively, a brash New York City cabbie and the pensive passenger he picks up at JFK airport to drive into Manhattan.

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DADDIO – Review by Leslie Combemale

Writer/director Christy Hall has created a very realistic, meaningful and intense film with Daddio, her first feature. It wouldn’t be the powerhouse that it is, however, without the collaboration of stars Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn, DP Phedon Papamichael, and composer Dickson Hinchliffe. Given nearly all of the story happens in one cab. It’s amazing, even given Johnson and Penn’s performances, how our attention never wavers. Clearly Hall has good taste and knows how to collaborate, and that is a great sign of what we might expect in her future.

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DADDIO (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Unfolding largely in real time over one hour and forty-one minutes, Daddio follows an unnamed woman (Dakota Johnson) headed home to the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan from JFK International Airport in Queens. In no mood to chat at first, she soon warms up to the driver (Sean Penn), a crusty guy ranting about how paying by apps and credit cards means no one throws you a little extra anymore. One of the smart touches in Daddio is how the talky script doles out character details. Daddio also is a universal one about finding meaning and connection in unlikely places, showing life can be a surprising trip.

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MADAME WEB – Review by T.J. Callahan

The fourth installment of Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man Universe has spun into theaters and it doesn’t even have Peter Parker in it. That’s because Madame Web is a character from the Spider-Man comics, like Morbius and Venom, not from Spider-Man himself. This film is the origin story of Cassandra Webb, a NYC paramedic who, after an accident, discovers that she not only has a mysterious past, but also psychic powers that come with it. Not all of Madame Web is silky smooth though. Some helpful elements aren’t quite woven securely into the fabric of the story. As blockbuster superhero movies go, this is Marvel Meh, but as a stand alone film with minimal backstory and no sneak peek at what’s to come, Madame Web, with its PG-13 rating, gives young impressionable women strong females to look up to.

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MADAME WEB – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Madame Web, Sony’s latest entry in its ongoing Spider-Man universe, is a tangled mess. Not winkingly fun enough to be camp, it’s an embarrassment of dull action, sloppy plotting, and a protagonist who seems like she wishes she were anywhere else. The context of Madame Web as a film is more interesting than anything onscreen. Sony legally must churn out something related to Spider-Man every few years or lose the movie rights to the friendly neighborhood web-slinger. Sometimes that generates pop culture magic, but Madame Web essentially kicks the rights issue down the road until another project like this year’s Kraven the Hunter arrives, further enmeshing Spider-Man within Sony’s clutches. Although Spidey can’t legally untangle himself, viewers at least can tap out—and should.

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THE DISAPEARANCE OF SHERE HITE – Review by Liz Braun

Honest, intimate and immediately controversial, the best-seller from feminist Shere Hite challenged the accepted wisdom about female sexuality; using thousands of questionnaires for her research, Hite wrote about women and orgasm, masturbation and innumerable other things that were not talked about at the time. The Hite Report sold 20 million copies and was translated into 19 languages, but was also considered dangerous in some quarters; the notion that female orgasm was possible without any help from a penis was a particular hurdle for about 50 percent of the population.

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CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH – Review by Martha K Baker

One of the pleasures of watching movies is spotting a newcomer who shines. That is the case with Cha Cha Real Smooth,”whose stupid title comes from DJ Casper’s Cha Cha Slide, heard ad nauseam at receptions. Cooper Raiff wrote, directed, and stars in this awfully sweet film. To call a movie “sweet” is to damn it with the faintest of praise. But Cha Cha Real Smooth really is sweet.

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CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH (SXSW 2022) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

At first blush, I thought the coming-of-age drama Cha Cha Real Smooth sounded like one of those tiring “manic pixie dream girl” narratives, with an aimless college graduate curing his ennui through a friendship with a mother and her autistic daughter. But filmmaker Cooper Raiff, who stars here as well as writes and directs, surprises with something more subtle and nuanced. It’s not just the graduate who matures during this friendship. The mom does too, with a tender, complex performance from Dakota Johnson.

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THE LOST DAUGHTER – Susan Granger

One great blessing of the current trend toward diversity and inclusion is that Netflix green-lit this scathingly honest psychological exploration of the ambivalence of motherhood, trusting actress Maggie Gyllenhaal to make her auspicious directing debut unraveling its psychological complexity.

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