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Is Whitney Cummings empowering or pathologizing ‘The Female Brain’?

Is Whitney Cummings empowering or pathologizing ‘The Female Brain’?
Whitney Cummings, above, co-wrote, directed and stars in "The Female Brain." (IFC Films)

Director, star and co-writer Whitney Cummings picks "The Female Brain" for her directorial debut, adapting Louann Brizendine's pop science book with Neal Brennan, who co-stars.

The film (and book) uses evolutionary biology to dissect the cultural stereotypes and assumptions about the way women think. It's not "crazy," it's just complicated communication patterns evolved over generations. Cummings stars as Dr. Brizendine, a neuroscientist who has regulated her brain chemistry to a finely tuned science.

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The script hops around vignettes featuring different couples — Sofia Vergara and Deon Cole as a long-married couple searching for their spark; "Saturday Night Live's" Cecily Strong and former L.A. Clipper Blake Griffin as newlyweds negotiating boundaries; Lucy Punch and James Marsden as a couple cracking under her scrutiny.

Along the way, Dr. Brizendine explains to the audience the brain chemistry behind many of these struggles and spats, while also negotiating a new relationship with a charming Neanderthal played by Toby Kebbell, at the behest of her assistant Abby, played by "Lady Bird's" Beanie Feldstein.

With such a fractured narrative, it's difficult to get into a groove with these short, shallow and over-simplified stories. Perhaps it would have worked better as a TV series — familiar turf for the creator of "2 Broke Girls" and "Whitney."

Furthermore, for all the over-explanation about the why of the female brain, the film disappointingly chooses to place all the female characters at fault. They have to apologize, come clean or rectify their situations, with male thinking presented as the norm.

Perhaps it's what served these scenarios best, but this explanation of the female brain feels a lot more like a pathologizing.

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‘The Female Brain’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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