The Doll is adapted from a short story and falls victim to a standard adaptation problem. Director James uses the protagonist’s internal monologue for exposition; he doesn’t open the film with it either, so it just pops in a few minutes later.
Luckily, James’s direction is good and his attention to detail meticulous. Oh, and he’s got Clayton LeBouef in the lead role and LeBouef is fantastic. So much of The Doll just happens in LeBouef’s expressions, it makes the narrated sequences stick out.
LeBouef plays a black businessman sometime post-Reconstruction, Jan Forbes is a visiting Southerner; they have history. Forbes overacts; every one of his scenes comes off exaggerated, which LeBouef’s scenes temper.
The Doll isn’t subtle but it’s successful. LeBouef and James’s sincerity and seriousness is obvious. James’s decisions might make the film more accessible, but subtly (and better actor in Forbes’s role) would’ve made it better.
Produced and directed by Danté James; screenplay by James and Joy Kecken, based on the story by Charles W. Chestnut; director of photography, Josh Gibson; edited by Marian Sears Hunter; music by Anthony M. Kelley; production designer, Richard Montgomery.
Starring Clayton LeBouef (Tom Taylor), Monique Brown (Daisy Taylor), Jan Forbes (Colonel Forsythe) and Carter Jahncke (Judge Breeman).