GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past joins the growing heap of instantly disposable Chick Flick candyfloss in which McConaughey has appeared. The film is no more than a conceptually lazy reworking of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol (1843) where the Scrooge role has been rewritten with a playboy instead of a miser who is then visited by three ghost exs that help him see the past, present and future and show him the effects that his self-centred ways have on those around him. Certainly, the script makes some amusing digs at its A Christmas Carol source one of the better jokes is when a repentant Matthew McConaughey opens the window and asks a kid Scrooges famous line You there, young man, what day is it? Is it Christmas? to be told No, its Saturday, you moron.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a formula film. It is a film that, once all the main characters are introduced, you can see exactly what will happen and who will end up with who. The great disappointment is how little effort seems to have been made to enervate any of the formula. Matthew McConaugheys character is given a fair whack of development and the part is not too badly written (at least as these films go) it is just that McConaughey graces the part with his indifference. He appears to have long given up on doing any acting and seems to only be lazily passing time in order to reap the multi-million dollar paycheque he gets every couple of years by turning up to do these romcom roles. In the flashback scene when McConaughey gets a long hair wig, he looks for all the world like a stupefied caveman suddenly thrown into the middle of the film and the rest of the time seems to display little more animation than someone who talks in grunts.
Worse is Jennifer Garner, a talented actress that one will always remember favourably for tvs Alias (2001-6), who is shuffled to the background and brought out every so often to make sarcastic comments in Matthew McConaugheys direction. The main problem with the film is that there is zero chemistry between her and McConaughey. Indeed, the film engenders far more in the way of good-natured humour from most of the characters in the supporting cast Robert Forster as the stepfather who sees everything in military analogies, Anne Archer as the divorcee mother McConaughey hits on, the trio of bridesmaids, Lacey Chabert as the hysterical bride-to-be and especially Michael Douglas who steals much of the film as Matthew McConaugheys late playboy uncle. In the absence of any chemistry between the leads, the film unevenly wavers through humour playing off Matthew McConaugheys playboy complications and slapstick (a sequence with McConaughey trying not to knock over the wedding cake), before ending in a rush of unearned feelgood sentimentality.
In fact, the film seems far more interested in playing off Matthew McConaughey as playboy superstud than it is does in developing its true love story. Being a Chick Flick, it seems to base its entire premise on the oft-said cliche that women are supposedly attracted to men that treat them like dirt and that every woman harbours the fantasy that they can secretly redeem them. The film is at its more interesting in the scenes where it tries to depict Matthew McConaugheys transformation from gawky adolescent to player. The writers have dusted these scenes with an elementary smattering of Mystery Method principles. Mostly though, McConaugheys method seems to consist of being blatantly sexual to women and they being overwhelmed either by his caveman charisma/his reputation and/or by the McConaughey sex symbol status that they fawningly drop into bed with him. (Try this in real life and see how many times you get your face slapped). Ultimately, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past befalls the puritanical thinking of most Hollywood treatments of people who are players/PUAs see The Pick-Up Artist (1987), The Tao of Steve (2000), the sublime Rodger Dodger (2002), Casanova (2005), Crazy Stupid Love (2011) and Julian McMahons character in tvs Nip/Tuck (2003-10) that someone who beds a great many women must be either soulless and unfeeling, be nursing an underlying unhappiness and/or in need of convincing that true love and monogamy are a far better option.
Director Mark Waters first appeared with the acclaimed The House of Yes (1997) and has since dabbled in romantic comedy with High Heels (2004) and Just Like Heaven (2005), Lindsay Lohan vehicles with Freaky Friday (2003) and Mean Girls (2004), the childrens film The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), the Jim Carrey vehicle Mr Poppers Penguins (2011), Vampire Academy (2014) and Bad Santa 2 (2016).