The Female Brain

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Female Brain Movie Poster Image
Comedy about science behind romantic choices; sex, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Humans are governed by hormones and other biological chemicals coursing through our veins and that explains seemingly inexplicable behavior.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Julia is a stodgy, rigid, unlikable researcher who refuses to accept what her research is telling her.

Violence

A woman pops a pimple on her boyfriend's back but it turns out to be cancer. Parents tell their young son they're going to divorce and he acts as if that's fine with him. Two men wrestle over the best way to tile a bathroom.

Sex

A woman hastily whips her shirt off, then places her surprised date's hands on her clothed breasts. The man plays with the woman's breasts through her bra but he refuses to have sex with her because he feels rushed and she's being too mechanical and detached. She's otherwise clothed. A husband finds his wife masturbating to online videos instead of having sex with him. A couple take Ecstasy together to improve their sex life but they don't have sex. A man is told by a friend to choke his wife during sex to enhance the pleasure. He tries it unsuccessfully.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bitch," "piss," "ass," "balls," and "blow job."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults use Ecstasy, a drug known to make people more amorous. A woman takes birth control pills, Adderall, and Ambien.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Female Brain is a 2018 comedy about a professor of neurology who uses her research into how hormones and other chemicals make men and women behave to avoid having a romantic relationship. She's therefore willing to hastily have sex on a first date rather than develop a relationship that may come to hurt her emotionally. A woman's breasts (in a bra) are displayed and pawed at for comic effect. A married man and woman take Ecstasy to improve their sex life but it fails. Men and women misunderstand each other on every level, including sexually. A husband finds his wife masturbating to online videos instead of having sex with him. Despite the emphasis on sex, there's no sex acts or nudity shown. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "piss," and "blow job." A woman takes birth control pills, Adderall, and Ambien.  

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What's the story?

In THE FEMALE BRAIN, comedian Whitney Cummings, as star, co-writer, and director, uses the work of neurology professor Louanne Brizendine to create a comedy about the chemical basis for why men and women relate to each other the way they do. Cummings plays Julia, a robotic neurological researcher who has given up on romance, love, and emotional happiness after the breakup of her marriage. She announces that she refuses to be a "victim of my neurochemicals." Constantly citing stereotypical behaviors of men and women and reducing them to the biological chemical components thought to cause such behaviors, she preempts the possibility of any real emotions or attachments she might feel. She often tosses off statistics and facts. Men and women have different sized skulls but the same number of brain cells. Women are seen as worry warts or alarmists, but that's because a part of the female brain, the amygdala, activates earlier to threats than men's do. Couples become less passionate after two years because that's when the brain starts producing less dopamine, the pleasure-related hormone, and more oxytocin, the asexual bonding hormone. Vignettes of struggling couples are shown as they try to spice up their sex lives. One couple (Sofia Vergara and Deon Cole) takes Ecstasy together but forget to have sex. Kevin (Toby Kebbell), a volunteer for Julia's brain scan study, demonstrates no response when shown images of cute kittens. She concludes he has no empathy, unaware that he simply hates cats. When he asks her out, she wants only to have detached first-date sex, which he turns down. Eventually she agrees to date him seriously. Although based on the work of a scientist, the subplot shows a researcher who keeps retesting subjects to get the results she wants, rather than objectively recording and interpreting the results she's actually observing -- depicting her, and the field of research, as sketchy, biased, and less than credible.

Is it any good?

This movie almost reaches the level of smart and quirky at times, and it's definitely designed for mature audiences with its sexual references and use of language, but it ultimately falls flat. The Female Brain feels overly literary, not in the sense of "high culture," but rather like something meant to be communicated in a written way, like a clever essay, or a recited stand-up act, which isn't surprising since Cummings is a stand-up comedian. The trouble is that nothing here is really funny.

The addition of overlong filmed vignettes depicting heterosexual couples struggling to overcome predetermined hormonal behaviors doesn't help. Sometimes dramatic issues are treated flippantly, as when a couple casually decides to divorce. They inform their young son, and he responds to the news with less interest than you'd expect if they had told him the TV wasn't working. With the focus on negative stereotypes, all exaggerated for comic effect, no one here is likable enough to sustain our interest, least of all the main character. The nicest surprise here is that former Detroit Piston basketball star Blake Griffin, playing a confused husband, turns out to have some talent as an actor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether nature determines our destiny. Do you think hormones dictate everything we do? Why or why not?

  • What are some ways we can combat stereotypical behaviors we may feel ourselves succumbing to?

  • Is it possible to use knowledge of what hormones make us do to control our behaviors and make better decisions? How so?

Movie details

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