‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ movie review: Matthew McConaughey’s Christmas Carol

A competent melding of Charles Dickens and light Matthew McConaughey rom-com, the awkwardly titled Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (there’s only one Ghost of Girlfriends Past, the other two are Present and Future) is proficient if little else. 

As you might infer from the title, director Mark Waters’ film uses Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a basis of sorts, and I suspect it’s this storyline that keeps the movie afloat. 

McConaughey stars as womanizing fashion photographer Connor Mead, kind of a US version of Alfie – though McConaughey is no Michael Caine (or Jude Law, for that matter), and the character, as written, is so explicitly misogynistic and unappealing I can’t imagine what all these women see in him. 

In one of the opening scenes, he dumps three women simultaneously via teleconference, and then jumps back in bed with his current date, who is all-too-eager to continue despite witnessing the whole thing. Uh-huh. 

Moving on: he shows up for his brother’s wedding rehearsal, just in time to plead with Paul (Breckin Meyer) to think things over, and gives a big ‘love isn’t real’ anti-marriage speech at the rehearsal dinner. 

The wedding is being held at the deceased Uncle Wayne’s estate; Wayne (Michael Douglas) shows up as a ghost and tells Connor that he’ll be visited by three more, etc. We all know where this is going, right? 

As is later revealed via flashbacks, it was Wayne who raised nephew Connor to become a playboy after both his parents were killed in a car accident. 

First up is the Ghost of Girlfriends Past (Emma Stone), who transports Connor back to the time that he was a sweet young kid in love with best friend Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner). 

Coincidentally, Jenny also happens to be the Maid of Honor at his brother’s wedding; I wonder if…? Strangely, these flashback scenes are filmed awkwardly, so that Connor and the ghost are usually never in the same frame as inhabitants of the flashbacks; it’s almost as if it was conceived as a straight flashback, and then the ghost stuff was added later. 

While I’m sure that’s not the case, it’s a strange and distracting technique; usually you’ll see the Scrooge character try to physically prevent his younger self from making the wrong decision; here, Connor just watches from the sidelines and makes snide comments. Bizarre. 

The Ghosts of Girlfriends Present and Future show up (briefly – those flashbacks ate up a lot of screentime) and show Connor how he affects those around him and how lonely his life will turn out. 

And the film resolves itself exactly as you would expect. Though there’s a scene halfway through where Connor accidentally ruins the wedding cake that struck me as entirely pointless; he’s already done enough to put the wedding in jeopardy, why accidentally add more? 

McConaughey and Garner have zero chemistry together. There’s some sweetness between the young actors who play the characters at various ages, but then a big void between the adults. I don’t mean to accidentally praise the Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson rom-coms, but at least those two felt like they deserved each other. 

Douglas seems to be playing famed producer Robert Evans circa The Kid Stays in the Picture, and he’s clearly having fun; his scenes are the best in the movie. 

Robert Forster is also amusing as the father of the bride (and the minister). While I didn’t really buy Connor’s character arc – either from sweet young kid to Matthew McConaughey, or womanizing McConaughey to anything else – Dickens’ underlying story is so solid that it keeps the film watchable. McConaughey and/or rom-com fans should enjoy.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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