The Female Brain (2017)
Written by Neal Brennan, Louann Brizendine and Whitney Cummings
Directed by Whitney Cummings
Produced by Erika Olde and Michael Roiff
98 min, rated R
The Female Brain debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival and star Whitney Cummings pulls triple duty. Not only does she star in it as Julia Brizendine (aka Louann Brizendine), the doctor with a heart of glass, she also serves as co-writer and director. This is a major feat in an industry dominated by men. The result is a brainy and romantic story about how women and men affect one another.
From the start, Cummings makes it clear this is a different kind of rom-com from the moment Julia looks over brain scans to find that women’s brains aren’t as complex as she wants them to be as she profiles three different couples whose brains she has examined. When they act on their impulses, there’s always a scientific explanation given by narrator Julia and this device works very well for the film.
As for the couples, there are three of them and Cecily Strong plays one half of my favorite one. She plays aspiring entrepreneur Zoe, and Blake Griffin plays Greg, an NBA player (sound familiar?) who suffers a leg injury, giving his “trophy wife” a chance to pursue a career of her own. The storyline could’ve been stereotypical and boring, but thanks to Griffin and Strong it stays fresh and entertaining. Whether it’s Zoe trying to fit in at her new crappy job or Greg trying to adjust to life without basketball, there’s never a dull moment.
Now, let’s talk about Blake Griffin. I’m not into sports and only vaguely knew his name before watching this. That said, he’s a good actor and has excellent comedic skills. He kills it with his improv and even throws in physical comedy when necessary. His scene with Will Sasso (as his personal trainer) has some unsubtle homoerotic undertones and is one of the funniest scenes in the film. He also manages not to chew too much scenery but when he does, it’s just the right amount. If you liked John Cena in Trainwreck, you’ll love Blake in this.
As for Julia and her love interest Kevin (whose brain she reads), it’s another example of a woman trying not to be a woman until the right man comes along to change her mind. The thing that sets this one apart from the other rom-coms is the chemistry between Cummings and Toby Kebbell and how they interact. He says he loves her after they meet cute in the MRI room at her school. She says she doesn’t do dating. He thinks she’s full of crap. They date and she learns to open up her heart as easily as she does minds.
In addition to these couples, Lucy Punch plays the typical nagging girlfriend Lexi to James Marsden’s scruffy Adam. She wants to change him. He wants her to let him be. They have ups and downs but the journey ends with a truthful and improvisational moment of clarity. Deon Cole and Sofia Vergara play Steven and Lisa, an old married couple on the brink of divorce. When the writers aren’t making fun of Vergara’s accent, they portray the ending of a long marriage in a realistic and simple way.
In the end, The Female Brain doesn’t set out to placate feminists but rather paints a picture of flawed humans with insecurities. Highly recommended for people that like comedies with heart and a brain. Bonus points for the awesome Ben Platt (2017 Tony Award winner) cameo. Rumor is there’s a “Male Brain” sequel in the works too. That should be brief.