Review by Sean Boelman
In the battle of the Hollywood Chrises, the one that reigns supreme is often shifting depending on what projects each is putting out. Well, Chris Pine is making his first foray into producing with Cheryl Nichols’s Doula, which somewhat ineffectively straddles the line between mainstream and indie comedy.
The film follows a Los Angelino couple who hires the son of their suddenly-deceased midwife to be their live-in doula, soon resulting in them butting heads with the unorthodox hipster. It’s a fun odd couple comedy premise, even if the film falls back on the same old tropes despite its desperate attempts to stand out.
Arron Shiver’s script has some moments that will elicit a chuckle, but nothing is ever as hilarious as it feels like it should be. A few quips about the myths that the patriarchy has created about a woman’s role in pregnancy are memorable, but other than that, it’s mostly the usual gags that we have seen in any film of the genre.
The film attempts to explore the same themes that pretty much any pregnancy comedy has done before, and not in a way that feels very sincere. Admittedly, a big part of the issue is likely the fact that the film is written by men whose perspective is that of an outsider, leading to some of the dialogue being a bit stilted.
However, even though the film doesn’t explore its themes of motherhood in any particularly innovative way, it stands out by taking an interesting approach to its characters. The film almost structures the dynamic as if it were a love triangle even though it is something different altogether.
Still, it feels like there are a lot of missed opportunities in the film to make things even richer. A subplot about the protagonist’s basketball career being threatened by motherhood is intriguing but feels like it is only there to set up one visual gag. And the whole blended family element of the film is absolutely wasted.
The biggest strength of the film is certainly its cast. Troian Bellisario gives an unexpectedly nuanced performance in a role that easily could have fallen back on physical comedy. Will Greenberg is an excellent complement in his very deadpan role. And Pine himself gives a very funny cameo.
Doula is enjoyable enough, but for most audiences, it will leave something to be desired. Likable characters and strong performances make up for the script’s shortcomings in delivering laughs or anything of substance to say.
Doula is now available on VOD.