Ghosts of Girlfriends Past review – we don’t need no punctuation
Imagine you are in a meeting where you are trying to come up with new and exciting film ideas for 2009. Now imagine that some bright spark comes up with “Christmas Carol about a hunky men and desperate women”. Imagine your despair as the boss of this meeting states “that is an excellent idea. I wondered what we were going to do with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas this year”!
Am I the only one who thinks that the above scenario is just too ridiculous to be true? If this is so, then why do they have McConaughey’s latest “love” story The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past in cinemas? What idiot thought this was a good idea and why didn’t anyone think that that title might require an apostrophe?
Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is haunted by the ghosts of his past girlfriends at his younger brother’s wedding.
Clearly being a “bachelor” means (to the makers of this film) that I am a misogynist! Matthew McConaughey (sans Kate Hudson) plays a highly unlikeable character throughout most of the piece whilst women of all different characters fall at his feet (or more specifically his groin area). I am no feminist but felt the need to duck down as women in the cinema were getting more and more irate. I almost felt like I should be apologising for my gender (not the first time in my life).
Michael Douglas joins McConaughey in a bit part as the equivalent of Jacob Marley and Jennifer Garner lowers herself to play the love interest of our highly unsavoury main character.
Throughout the first thirty minutes of this film I assure you, that you’ll despise the McConaughey’s character and the women that he manages to seduce (for being so weak).
You may think then, that with this quite awful beginning as McConaughey shows very little to his acting bow by just playing a more arrogant version of himself and the fact that the film seems to revel in the fact that it is a bastardisation of a literary classic, that Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a complete pile of Norfolk cattle excrement. It isn’t however as clear cut as that.
Just as you really are despising McConaughey’s character (Connor Mead) to a point of fist-biting anger, the story continues with the promises of ghosts and the film rises above the depths of which it began. Suddenly it becomes heartfelt, amusing and actually quite enjoyable. As strange as it seems you manage to forgive some (but not all) of the behaviour of Connor Mead. Don’t get me wrong: Matthew McConaughey is far from being charming as a misogynist but he very nearly manages to redeem himself….nearly.
Okay so the fact that the past girlfriends are not dead (and therefore cannot strictly be called ghosts) tends to lead you to believe that not a great deal of thought was put into the title. Okay so Michael Douglas (who plays a more charming womaniser) is completely underused and Jennifer Garner was completely wasted. However at the height of its charm is a simple phrase as the main character looks out of his window and calls to a boy: “is it Christmas?”.To which the boy replies “No. It’s Saturday”! For me, this made the film. If only it had toyed with the Dickens tale a little more.
When all is said and done, this is another retelling of a very well told story. Unfortunately it is not perhaps as charming as Scrooged (another modern retelling). Bill Murray in that was able to come across as evil and yet retained at least some charm for the audience.
The fact that this is another way for the Christmas Carol story to be told in the middle of a year angers me. After all, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is simply a love story (I will not use the term “romance”). It is usual in this scenario for Studios to cut and paste Matthew McConaughey into a role with a suitably attractive female lead (usually Kate Hudson). It seems that instead of writing a unique tale, they just took a tried and tested formula and adapted for their own purposes.
Overall Ghosts of Girlfriends Past manages to be an endearing tale (that should have ended 5 minutes earlier). This is greatly helped by Matthew McConaughey’s and Michael Douglas’s charm on screen. Sadly Jennifer Garner is lacking somewhat throughout though. Naturally not a great deal of criticism should made of Garner as at least she isn’t Kate Hudson!
Instantly angering and eventually surprisingly enjoyable. Amusing only after the first 30 minutes with hintsof lazy writing (surprising, since most of it was written by Dickens). Matthew McConaughey charms and looks plastic, Garner smiles and looks like a duck-billed platypus and Michael Douglas plays the “pervy old man” quite brilliantly. Simply put, it is enjoyable, but with flaws.
3.5 out of 5
Update: incidentally, there is a lot of conversation online as to why Connor Mead was named “Dutch” by Michael Douglas’s character. The only explanation I can find is that “Dutch” refers to a bisexual man. Perhaps that was a gentle play at the character of Mead. Who really knows what the writers had in mind!