Director: Whitney Cummings
Cast: Whitney Cummings, Toby Kebbell, Cecily Strong, Blake Griffin, Sofía Vergara, Deon Cole, James Marsden, and Lucy Punch
Studio: IFC Films
Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: On VOD February 9, 2018
The Female Brain marks Whitney Cummings’s directorial debut and follows four couples at varying stages in their relationships. The main story follows scientist Julia (Cummings) whose dedication to neuroscience has resulted in her thinking she has no need for a relationship. She knows her own brain so well that a romance would be unnecessary stress for it. That is until she meets Kevin(Toby Kebbell), a test subject for one of her experiments, who Julia finds herself reluctantly falling for.
There’s also newlyweds Zoe (Cecily Strong) and Greg (Blake Griffin) who start hitting their first rough patch. Lisa (Sofía Vergara) and Steven (Deon Cole) are attempting to recapture the passion in their long, fizzled out marriage. And then there’s on-again/off-again couple Adam (James Marsden) and Lexi (Lucy Punch) who bicker over everything.
Admittedly, I am biased against romantic comedies. They reuse the same tired tropes rarely offering any new insights on love or relationships. And while The Female Brain does fall into some of the same trappings of most rom-coms, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it to be endearing.
What helps the film is the couples are very likable. They’re cute and have believable chemistry with each other. The comedic hi-jinks they get into, while not gut-busting hilarious, keeps you smiling and never becomes too raunchy or mean-spirited. Kebbell is a stand-out. His deadpan delivery and stoic nature provides great contrast and works perfectly against Cummings’ neurotic performance.
The most interesting couple, however, has to be Lisa and Steven. Vergara and Cole not only pull off the old married couple flawlessly, the situations they get into are easily the funniest in the film. And their story, unlike the others, went into a direction that I didn’t see coming.I wouldn’t have minded if they were the focus of the film. Having The Female Brain broken into four arcs benefits the pacing greatly. The movie flows beautifully with no drag in any of the scenes. The only downside is none of the characters never crossover with each other.
Unfortunately, Cummings’ direction feels too safe for its own good. She does inject some style into the film with some visual effects. When Julia explains to the audience about the brain’s chemical reaction to certain events and how a character gives a response stereotypical of their gender, the screen is overlayed with an X-Ray of the character’s brain using vintage stock footage to highlight Julia’s explanation. These sequences are visually interesting and provide prospective. The majority of the film leans towards the mundane. The camera angles need work and the color palette looks artificial.
The sterility of the script doesn’t leave a lasting impression. The predictability of the character arcs and how shallow the characterizations become takes away from the profound lessons each story ends with. They don’t feel impactful rather than ham-fisted.
Despite some flaws, there is an underlying sweetness to the script that’s hard to ignore. Contrary to the foreseeable end, Cummings and Brennan tell these couples’ stories with a sincerity similar films of this genre lack. Yes, the outcome of the storylines are calculable, but in the case of The Female Brain, I’m okay with it.
In the end, The Female Brain is, for lack of a better term, cute. It has enough charm to keep you watching until the end. If you’re a fan of the rom-com genre, it’s worth checking out.
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All Photos: ©2017 IFC Films. All Rights Reserved.
© 2018, Dustin Kogler. All rights reserved.
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