The Female Brain

I generally don’t research films before viewing them. I like coming in cold to limit as much bias as I can. My process is not perfect, and that’s OK. The Female Brain opens with a smart, attractive, female scientist lecturing a TED-talk audience about the physiological make-up the female brain. Her talk was Informative, educational, insightful and then it dawned on me that the scientist is comedian Whitney Cummings. Then she shows an image of Sofia Vergara and Deon Cole in bed. Nothing wrong with any of this though, I’m starting to think this film is a rom-com.

Based on the book of the same name by Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain centers on neuro-scientist Dr. Brizendine (Whitney Cummings). Her lecture is mostly academic exploring the neurological differences between men and women and connecting these differences with their respective behavior in romantic and familial relationships.

Brizendine goes into great detail how serotonin and dopamine cause men and women to act certain ways. There is a lot of men this and women that. While I found the information fascinating and the telestrator-type graphics effective, unless you already know these facts (which I didn’t), it was callback scientific details required later in the film. There were many moments I asked myself, “what does dopamine do, again?”

“…progressively screwed up her own neuro-chemistry with a steady stream of psych-drugs.”

In her lecture, she examines three couples she has been studying. Lisa (Sofia Vergara) and Steven (Deon Cole) are a couple who have lost the spark in their marriage. Well, not so much lost the spark but have become used to one another’s company. And, there’s a chemical explanation for this.

Zoe (Cecily Strong) and Greg (Blake Griffin) are a success-driven couple. Greg is a successful athlete sidelined by a knee injury. Zoe is a knowledgeable businesswoman, who is fearful that her potential success will become overshadowed by her husband’s success. Worse, that she won’t be taken seriously because of the man she married.

And then there’s Adam (James Marsden) and Lexi (Lucy Punch), whose relationship is on the rocks because Lexi is never satisfied with Adam’s appearance and the way he carries himself. Adam struggles between being himself versus being acceptable to Lexi.

Let’s not forget Dr. Brizendine herself. Her obsession with the brain and its chemical responses to relationships has soured herself to ever being in a relationship. She gets no help from her assistant Abby (Beanie Feldstein), who has progressively screwed up her own neuro-chemistry with a steady stream of psych-drugs. Brizendine’s view of romance and relationships is put to the test when she becomes chemically attracted to one of her subjects, Kevin (Toby Kebbell). Low and behold, Brizendine finds herself at odds with her internal chemical conflict over Kevin.

“…what does dopamine do, again?”

The Female Brain is like a special two-hour episode of The Love Boat. Couples come on board the boat for a romantic journey; their love is tested to the breaking point; and ultimately get back together while learning a little something about themselves. I watched a lot of Love Boat, and the show’s attraction was the myriad of stars appearing each week. It’s a tried-and-true formula that worked for nine seasons, and for the most part, the formula works in The Female Brain. Written by Whitney Cummings and Neal Brennan, the duo produced a strong adaptation of the original book with slightly better sub-plots than the original Love Boat. Sadly, it doesn’t transcend the familiar romantic-comedy formula in any way.

I know I’m repeating this, The Female Brain is a good film worthy of a recommendation, but that’s all it is…a good film. As a director, Whitney Cummings produced a solid film for her first feature. The acting is high quality, and the storytelling is exceptional. It’s always interesting to see actors known for comedy take on dramatic roles, although these dramatic performances come off as restrained performances. Let’s boil it down to this: The Female Brain is good, not great.

The Female Brain (2018) Directed by Whitney Cummings. Written by Whitney Cummings and Neal Brennan. Starring Whitney Cummings, Toby Kebbell, Sofia Vergara, James Marsden, Beanie Feldstein, Cecily Strong, Deon Cole, and Lucy Punch.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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