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Stars help Daddio talkfest soar

          Two people talking in a car—not action movie fodder by any means but texture it with charismatic performers and some insightful observations about sexual behaviors and the watchable meter rises significantly. Writer-director Christy Hall structures her script with solid and clever care, but makes a movie that gets into theaters with the casting coup of Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn. A hit like Fifty Shades of Grey threatened to pigeonhole Johnson. She flew that coop in acting and arthouse creds with projects like The Lost Daughter and Peanut Butter Falcon, so turning up in a low-budget dialogue driven project seems in character, especially since she plays a gorgeous woman quickly seen on her phone sexting a lover. Mix in Penn with the reputation and skill to do whatever he wants, and director Hall gets the tools she needs to make her points regarding the differing views men and women feel about relationships. Her performers step in with everything demanded in their roles, though no surprise, Penn hits the highest notes including truly subtle ones. Playing a world-weary taxi driver in a world of Ubers, he especially stands out in a little moment as his character recalls his first wife. Tiny twitches reveal more than the driver himself grasps, a delicate touch from a knowing actor. Beyond performance, director Hall faces the challenge of constrained space. Aside from a shot at J.F.K. Airport and a Mid-town Manhattan residence, action stays inside a cab as it moves through and stops for traffic.  No special effects heighten events, though flashing police lights add some extra color. Otherwise, Hall relies on close in cuts, sometimes catching nothing more than eyes in a mirror. Slow, yes; talky, yes; but an acting showcase with thoughts worth pondering.



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