Whitney Cummings’s “The Female Brain” Is an Overwrought Rom-Com About…Well, Take a Guess

Based on the popular and controversial nonfiction book by Louann Brizendine

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Neuroscientist Julia has a hack for just about everything: She guzzles Soylent, and she’ll reject a potential mate because his brain scans show a lack of empathy. Director and co-writer Whitney Cummings stars as the not-looking-for-a-man scientist at the center of this overwrought rom-com based on the pop-science book by Louann Brizendine. We meet Julia as she’s presenting her research on — wait for it — the pesky, fickle female brain. In her study, Julia delves into the minds of couples who are dating, newlyweds, and long-term spouses. But things get complicated when she can’t hack the feelings that she develops for one of her subjects. Does Julia fall prey to the psychologist’s fallacy — or will she nail the science behind what makes people tick?

Cummings and Neal Brennan’s script makes for an earnest, if slightly uneven, combination of info and laughs that skews a bit too Psych 101. Cutaways purport to reveal the science behind behavior, punctuating scenes of the couples as they bicker, spice things up, and test boundaries. Still, despite its strong cast (including Sofia Vergara, Cecily Strong, and James Marsden), The Female Brain has trouble making its characters more than one-dimensional. (Beanie Feldstein stands out as Julia’s bubbly, overmedicated millennial assistant.) Instead, it offers a myopic, heteronormative look at romance that spends a lot of time playing up women’s impulses for laughs before conceding that these instincts are actually kind of a good thing. Its creators’ hearts may be in the right place, but that’s not enough to save The Female Brain from overthinking it.

The Female Brain
Directed by Whitney Cummings
IFC Films
Opens February 9, IFC Center
Available on demand

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