Here’s a new one: the battle of the sexes based on the size of their brains. Starring and directed by comedian Whitney Cummings, who might be better at getting laughs in a TV rom-com than trying vainly to be witty writing screenplays (she cowrote the screenplay, with Neal Brennan), The Female Brain is dead on arrival.
Based on a nonfiction work of the same name by a neuropsychiatrist named Dr. Louann Brizendine about how the genders play self-destructive roles in the pseudo-science of sexual combat, the movie features Cummings as a neuropsychiatrist named Dr. Julia Brizendine, whose first name has been changed for reasons known only by the two women but never revealed. Julia is currently heading a research project to study the ways men and women differ from each other because of a meticulously diagrammed and monumentally boring list of neurochemicals in their minds. The focus is on three couples so dysfunctional it’s a miracle they can make a grocery list.
Steven and Lisa (Deon Cole and Sofia Vergara) have lost interest in sex because, according to this movie, people in relationships lose passion after two years because their brains stop producing a feel-good chemical called dopamine. Adam and his British girlfriend Lexi (James Marsden and Lucy Punch) are on the rocks because he finds it annoying that she can’t pronounce The Dukes of Hazzard correctly and she manipulates him to the point of regulating his diet and straightening his curly hair. Zoe (Cecily Strong) and basketball-playing husband Greg (played by pro-basketball player turned movie producer Blake Griffin), together only a year, are in emotional turmoil because, home-bound while recovering from a sports injury, he feels emasculated. The movie twists and skids uneasily between relationships, illustrated by textbook observations replete with technical terms for every social and scientific construct known to mankind.
THE FEMALE BRAIN ★
Greg tries to prove his manliness by tiling the bathroom while Zoe just wants to call a contractor. When Steven finally loosens up enough to get Lisa in bed for a quickie, she glances at her watch and asks: “What time do they close Target?” As a compromise, they take drugs and watch a re-run of Golden Girls. In the creepiest and most disgusting scene, Lexi pops a pimple on Adam’s back and gets the contents lodged in her eye. This is a comedy?
Threading it all together is Dr. Julia, a university professor with the logic of a kindergarten teacher who goes home during recess and never comes back. She’s a royal pain to everyone else in the film, negatively warning that everything in life is bad for you, from coffee to birth control pills. Her way of coping with the agony of relationships is to give up on men altogether. Until, that is, she finally invites a date for a drink and he treats the viewer to one of the script’s typically mind-numbing displays of verbal diarrhea. “What do you drink?” she asks. “It depends on what kind of man you want in your house,” he replies. “I mean, whiskey if you want me to break shit, gin if you want me to shadow box and tell you I’m invincible, or rum if you want a pirate in the house.”
The Female Brain is without evidence of critical thinking from anyone involved. But you do learn the most intriguing things: Men have bigger heads and thicker skulls, but women have the same number of brain cells, just crowded in a much smaller space. Women are more neurotic and self-conscious than their male partners. Women are more obsessed with details, which makes them control freaks. The distaff side of humanity who were exposed to stress chemicals in the womb are more likely to become carbon copies of their mothers. Men are quicker to detect “territorial challenges” from other men, which produces more testosterone and adrenalin, which makes them more hostile and aggressive. A movie like this could make you pretty hostile and aggressive, too—or at least give up on both yourself and the rest of society at large before lunch. Maybe it’s more of a girl thing. All I know is it’s excruciatingly dull. It pains me to see industrious people wasting time, chasing their tails and turning into butter when they could be taking a nap—which is what I did at regular intervals during The Female Brain.