Reviews

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past submits that Connor deserves to be saved by Jenny. But it never shows how or why she should bother with him.


Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Emma Stone, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: New Line Cinema
First date: 2009
UK Release Date: 2009-05-01 (General release)
US Release Date: 2009-05-01 (General release)
Website

Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is the consummate player. A photographer of world renown, he arrives at his latest shoot just in time to snap the picture -- the camera, pretty girls in underwear and spotlights already in place and waiting. He calls the shot perfect, then heads off to arrange the next, a still-clothed pop star (Stephanie Oum) in need not only of stripping for her magazine cover but also -- mere minutes later -- Connor's legendary sex.

Yes, Connor's life is pretty perfect. Which is why he must be taught a lesson. Seeing as he lives inside a movie called Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, you might imagine who shows up to administer that education. You might also anticipate its limits, given that it is premised on Connor reckoning with women with designations like "Slapping Brunette" (Toni Saladna), "Ice Cold Blonde" (Gina Gesamondo), "48 Seconds Bar Woman" (Lauren Tangard), and "Bar Twins" (Kimberly and Ashley Carvalho).

Incredible, but true: this movie is as retarded as it sounds.

Connor's change is occasioned by his younger brother Paul's (Breckin Meyer) wedding to Sandra (Lacey Chabert). Connor arrives full of himself, determined to put the kibosh on Paul's impending bliss, telling anyone who asks and even those who don't how much he despises marriage the obsolete concept (and not because it's premised on treating women as property). "I wish I could believe in all this crap," he lies, "But I am condemned to seeing the world as it really is. The truth hurts, baby." The rest of the wedding party repeatedly responds to such dated nuggets of swinging wisdom by looking away or rolling their eyes, but all put up with him because Paul insists he's a good man deep inside. Right.

The brotherly loving is offset by a wearisome supporting cast: the gratingly neurotic Sandra brings along her doting father, the buzz-cut Sergeant Volkom (Robert Forster), as well as her mother, voluptuous Vondra Volkom (Anne Archer). Connor immediately guesses she's divorced (because "No married woman this age keeps her form this fine!") and makes a definitively yucky pass (when she notes that "spooning is nice," he counters that it's "not as nice as forking"). This in addition to his efforts to bed the one of three bridesmaids he hasn't yet; conveniently color-coded -- one blond, one brunette, one redhead -- these girls are all drearily... um, how to put it? stupid, shallow, and banal. Connor draws something of a line here (he doesn’t want to sleep with the bridesmaid his brother has already slept with, because, he explains, "I don't like to cross swords"), but really, who cares?

At least she doesn’t have to meet Connor's now-dead Uncle Wayne (played by Archer's Fatal Attraction husband Michael Douglas, in poofty hair and Robert-Evans-style tinted glasses). Playing Marley in the Scrooge plot, Wayne walks his nephew through memories of their early cavorting. When, as a dreadfully shy high school student, Connor has his heart broken, he resolves never to "feel this way again" by adopting Wayne's prehistoric worldview ("Dames are like horses, they spook easy," "Every dude with a johnson has got a chance," etc.).

Wayne doesn’t appear to feel bad that he turned deep-inside good Connor into a wholly prosaic philanderer, but he does warn that his late-in-life loneliness may not be the best end to pursue. And so he sets his nephew on a course of reform, led at first by the Ghost of Girlfriends Past, eternally 16-year-old Allison (Emma Stone). Landing in Connor's bed with braces and circa-1982 foofy skirt and frizzy hair, Allison reminds him of the many girls he's had, including the one he really and truly loves in spite of himself, Jenny (Jennifer Garner, who is, like McConaughey, too old to be playing in these barely-post-adolescent fantasies).

Now a doctor (i.e., successful and smart), Jenny also happens to be at the wedding as Sandra's maid of honor, which means she and Connor can clash in so-called real time as well as during his ghostly visitations: in their shared past, she dances with another boy at prom and so sends Connor on his egregious life course. She's also the central knot Girlfriends can't untangle, which is to say, Jenny shows up in his past, resent, and future visions. The problem is, after the film spends long minutes revealing Connor's past exploits, it's pretty much stuck. The Present Ghost is a spectral version of his actual ultra-professional assistant Melanie (Noureen DeWulf) and the Future Ghost an unnamed, voiceless apparition in a long white gown (Olga Maliouk): neither of their tours of Connor's options is remotely interesting, because once Jenny's introduced in the "past" segment, well, his course is set. The other stories are just filler, while he figures out how to get back with the girl he really wants.

The knot of Jenny is this: she and Connor have known each other since they were cute little kids running around the back yard in slow motion, and even admitted to moments of infatuation and/or true love, but after a disastrous one-night-together, she has promised herself not to fall for the "Connor Mead" treatment again. It's never clear why he needs the ghosts business to realize that he was wrong on this count, as he seems pretty much resigned to his fate from the moment he spots Jenny flirting with the doctor (Daniel Sunjata) Sandra's set her up with.

Even with its conclusion so plainly foregone, Ghosts can't seem to help itself. Blundering from one bad joke set-up to the next, mostly at the girls' expenses -- a strange choice, given that Connor is supposed to be student here -- it submits frequently that Connor deserves to be saved by Jenny. But it never shows how or why she should bother with him.

1

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image