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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (review)

Anti Love Story

Ah, *swoon,* it’s so romantic! Every woman in the world can’t help but fall in love with Connor Mead — and he lets them! — but it’s only just cuz the woman he really loves broke his heart forever ago! So sad! He’s so damaged and fragile and tragic and of course that’s why all those women fall for him, and that’s why he can never really love any of them! Irony! OMG *sigh*


No, sorry, I can’t do this. Even trying to think about Ghosts of Girlfriends Past from a snarky perspective makes me want to vomit. This is a repulsive movie, way worse than I was expecting from the revolting trailer and the presence of the nauseating Matthew McConaughey and the disgusting premise: that a soulless, heartless manwhore could be redeemed by a phantasmagorical journey through all his sexual conquests. Connor Mead is a selfish dick, and I don’t like to use that word as an insult, but he really is just a brainless walking penis, and McConaughey does precisely nothing to make us care one tiny little whit about him. He got his heart broken once, and that excuses him from being the world’s biggest asshole? Ugh. Who the hell hasn’t had their heart broken? Do we morph from decent people into swaggering jerks? No, we do not, sir. We’re supposed to believe that, literally overnight, Connor Mead will morph from an asshole into a decent person? Not bloody likely, and poor Jennifer Garner better have a divorce attorney on standby. And probably a therapist, too.

Connor Mead oozes his way through this movie, wondering why casual sex has gotten such a bad rap that he has to even try these days to find someplace wet and warm to stick his dick. It’s because of jerks like him, of course: he claims to love all women, claims to be able to find something beautiful in all of them. But there are no ugly or average-looking women in Connor Mead’s life: they’re all 5-10, 110-pound underwear models with 23-inch waists and D-cups, a combination that does not naturally occur in real life — so, you know, it’s not much of a stretch to find something “beautiful” about them, if your notion of beauty is so tediously conventional as to coincide with that of Playboy magazine. He’s a hotshot photographer, you see, who terrorizes women for a living, and they love him for it. No, really: The film opens with him doing a shoot of a pop star who’s supposed to be Beyoncé-esque, I suppose, a cute, curvy chick whom Connor’s assistants strip almost naked without her permission before he brandishes a deadly weapon at her in order to get a “genuine” reaction for the camera. And then — naturally — she’s climbing all over him, ready to fuck. Because that’s what turns a gal on: terror.

Hilariously, though — in a way that makes me want to curl up into a fetal ball of heartbroken womanliness and sob for three days — Ghosts of Girlfriends Past also is part of the reason why romance gets a bad rap, too. Connor is off to the wedding of his brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer [Robot Chicken: Star Wars, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties], perhaps the first time he’s been authentically adorable since Clueless), where it’s all bridezillas — Paul’s fiancée, Sandra (Lacey Chabert: Rugrats Go Wild, Daddy Day Care) throws a childish hissy fit over the salad being served at her rehearsal dinner, for starters — and horny bridesmaids who say things like, Men aren’t really married if they don’t have children (meaning they’re fair game for horny bridesmaids). For extra bonus assholery, director Mark Waters (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Just Like Heaven) makes sure to turn Paul’s groomsmen into spineless dorks. They could have been just nice, regular guys, but that might have made Connor look even worse than he already does. Maybe that’s an indication that more people feel as I do than I suspected: that there is nothing in the least bit attractive about Matthew McConaughey (Tropic Thunder, Fool’s Gold), and that he only can stand comparison with nerds who are better able to talk to their Blackberries than to women.

Not that Connor is really any better. He doesn’t actually bother to seduce women: he just makes flat-out propositions and assumes that his crudity will be considered charming. Apparently, this often works for him, but not at this wedding: His mojo is impaired by the presence of Garner’s (Juno, The Kingdom) Jenny Perotti, who was his childhood sweetheart and is inexplicably still hung up on him. For reasons that don’t quite jibe with the Christmas Carol riffing going on in the script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (together wrote Four Christmases), Connor will be getting a wakeup call this wedding eve, as three spirits from his “relationships” with women will attempt to open his eyes to the fact that it’s because he’s still hung up on Jenny that he’s been such a massive dick his whole life.

It’s really rather astonishing, actually, that one movie could take two wildly different cartoonish depictions of love and sex — it’s either nonstop loveless fucking or soft-focus girly romance — and make both of them look bad. So kudos to Ghosts for that, I guess. Oh, and for giving us ridiculously unhealthy images of both men and women. Way to go. Connor would like us to believe that all men are dirtbags, and if they aren’t, they’re, well, women (and who on Earth would want to be a woman, especially with the way they let men treat them?). And what that means, I suppose, is that, in the end, we’re meant to infer that reformed dirtbags are the only acceptable kind of person.

Ugh.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • amanohyo

    To get a reasonably accurate and comprehensive forecast, I usually “average” your review with Walter Chaw’s at filmfreakcentral.net, but this is one of the rare instances when both reviews make very similar points. It seems to only happen when a movie is mind-blowingly awful. The scariest thing is that there are dating couples out there who will watch this and enjoy it.

  • Orangutan

    I’ve noticed something recently… photographers are being portrayed REALLY badly lately. Or maybe I’m just starting to notice. But seriously, any CSI episode that’s had a photographer character, they’re either the killer or just an all-around dirtball. And now this. I don’t get it. o.O

  • JoshDM

    What crazy garbage character did you use to replace all your apostrophes with in your review, MAJ?

    Test: ‘ /Test

  • amanohyo

    Orangutan, according to quite a lot of models, many top photographers really are incredibly sleazy and will demand sexual favors from their subjects. The occupation naturally attracts superficial, self-centered dicks. The same goes for airline pilots and marketing execs. (There are many exceptions, of course).

    I also see funky symbols in place of apostrophes using Safari sometimes, but sometimes they’re normal. Weird.

  • Pedro

    You know what?

    Swaggering jerks do exist – just not this old. “Nerds who can better talk to their Blackberries than women” – you’re reading one.

    Sure, they’re not desirable, but that doesn’t mean they’re not REAL. “horny bridesmaids”, on the other hand………..

    see where i’m going? women don’t want to f*ck. they want a sensitive, caring guy – unless there’s a 6’2′ hunky football player at hand.

    so yeah, this movie sounds revolting and unrealistic. but not all that unrealistic…

  • Pedro

    EDIT:

    “swaggering jerks *who get insanely hot girls* do exist”

  • MaryAnn

    The punctuation thing appears to have been a temporary database glitch. Looks like it’s fixed now.

  • MaryAnn

    according to quite a lot of models, many top photographers really are incredibly sleazy and will demand sexual favors from their subjects. The occupation naturally attracts superficial, self-centered dicks.

    I have no doubt that this is true. The thing is, this movie suggests that none of those models ever turns him down: in fact, they don’t want to turn him down. Connor doesn’t have to “demand” anything from these women: they’re falling all over one another to do whatever he wants them to do.

    Swaggering jerks do exist – just not this old. “Nerds who can better talk to their Blackberries than women” – you’re reading one.

    I didn’t say these people don’t exist. I said the way this film is structured, it makes a dichotomy that does not exist in the real world. Men are not divided into swaggering jerks on one side and nervous nerds on the other side.

    see where i’m going? women don’t want to f*ck. they want a sensitive, caring guy – unless there’s a 6’2′ hunky football player at hand.

    You need to meet more women, Pedro. That might also help you expand your notion of what constitutes a “hot” woman. If it’s limited to underwear models, you’re never going to be happy.

  • Doa766

    women want to fuck as badly as men, they just know how to disguise it better

    but you shouldn’t confuse women with teenagers, that’s where this common misconception about women not wanting to fuck comes from, the guys who think that only want young and young girls want romance not sex(usually)

    like the main character on High Fidelity says: “the pèrcfect sexual couple is a boy around 16-18 and a woman on the early forties”, the problem is that they don’t usually like each other

  • MaryAnn

    women want to fuck as badly as men, they just know how to disguise it better

    I’m not sure women disguise it at all: we’re just slightly more selective, generally speaking, about whom we’ll fuck than, generally speaking, men are.

    What you’re taking for disguising may merely be a lack of interest in fucking a particular guy, not a lack of interest in fucking at all.

  • Pedro

    Good point, Doa766. I’ve noticed a trend whereby girls (NOT women, “girls”) sort of freeze in time. I have woman friends at the age of 24/25 that still reason like 15-year-olds, especially in what concerns us Boyz II Men.

    And yes, we are the exact same way. I, myself, am on a par with a reasonably mature 17-year-old (which I was), and most of my male friends act about 14, even though most of us are 22 and older.

    As for “hot”, it comes in many shapes and sizes. I used to be a Maxim-cover kind of guy, but lately, it’s about the little things (not THOSE little things!). The way she talks, the way she smiles, the way she treats people (and nerds)…

    I’ve also been leaning more towards older women (late 30’s and up), but as someone said, they’re just not interested. There’s plenty of hunky, greying George Clooney execs riding Mercedes – they won’t look twice at a geeky journalist/teacher who still rides a bus. (Not for long, though, driver’s license YO!)

    Point being: I’m learning. But if a blonde 18-year-old cover model wants to do me…I’ll do her for sure! Hell, I’ll even DATE her :)

    And I know I’d better stop before MaryAnn berates me for objectifying gorgeous ladies, but I confess I’d take her to meet people who tormented me in high-school, and I’d go “who’s the loser NOW!!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”

    LOL…just kidding. But yeah, I’m a quote-unquote “loser”. Although things have been much worse…comes with age, I guess…

  • Paul

    Years ago, I would be reading about and listening to my friends discuess the debate about whether or not people should be having sex by or before the third date. I think a Seinfield episode either touched it off or made fun of the “third date rule.” At the time I thought the concept of having sex so quickly guaranteed that people’s sex lives would become more shallow, unsatisfying, and, at best, silly. Of course, since I wasn’t even dating, people felt free to dismiss my advice.

    Now I’ve been reading that having sex before the first date is becoming increasingly common on college campuses: they just hook up at a party.

    But no one seems happier for it.

    I think the increasing difficulty of making a movie about modern American sex life with sympathetic characters and a believeable happy ending just goes to show that we’ve been putting the cart before the horse when it comes to sex and love. Movies like this are the desparate flailing about of immature people making immature movies.

    And one last thing before I get off my high horse: few people grow up until they have to.

  • I used to have a thing for older women when I was younger, too, and indeed, it’s no coincidence that the one female friend I talk to most often–and from whom I have gotten the most apt advice in regard to my love life–is a female friend who’s at least eight years older than me.

    Then again, my most successful romantic relationship to date has been with a woman fifteen years younger than me. (One I was initially reluctant to go out with. (Yes, MaryAnn, I’m aware of the irony in that.) And every time I talked to two of my married female friends about the age difference in that relationship, they would inevitably point out that they were the youngest persons in their relationships as well and that the age gap between them and their spouses was almost as wide as the one in the relationship I just mentioned.

    For that matter, the advice I most often got from older relatives when I was in my 20s was:

    1. Don’t make any hard, fast rules about whom you’re likely to be attracted to because you never know who you will end up bonding with.

    2. The men don’t choose the women. The women choose the men.

    And indeed, my favorite ex-girlfriend often reminded me that if she really hadn’t liked me, she and I would have never gotten beyond the first date.

  • And one last thing before I get off my high horse: few people grow up until they have to.

    And sometimes not even then.

  • Doa766

    also (trying to go back a little to the topic of this movie) there’s a social component for women that men don’t have, so they have to be discret on this matters on way men aren’t (be discret, disguise it, play it cool, being selective; it’s the same thing)

    for example if on a workplace one of the men fucks several of the women then he’s considered a winner and ladiesman and the other men respect and envy him for it, but if a woman does the same thing then she’s regarded as whore, even by some of the other women, and then she loses any chance of being respected or promoted

    it just the way it is, actually now that I think of it, an actress playing a role like on a movie would be considered a whore by the audience (the actress, not the character), and that’s maybe why it’s so unusual for a female characters to have sex with more that one male character on a single movie, whilst when James Bond does it, we cheer for him and wish we were him

  • Doa766

    also if you have any doubts about how women want to fuck as much as men if because clearly you’ve never seen a video of a private bachelorette party with 20 young women and a male stripper

    most of us (men) think that male and female strippers have sorta of similar job and the audience behave (or allowed to behave) on a similar way, well, let me just say that when a girlfriend showed me the video from a bachelorette party she went to was a real eye opener

  • Alli

    Well, I’m a photographer (a journalist), and yes there are a lot of egocentric photographers, I don’t think I know anyone who asks for sexual favors from anyone however. Also, most of the fashion photographers I know are women, and many of them are extremely nice people.

    So if we could drop the superficial, self-centered dick stereotypes, that would be awesome. Thanks.

    ps. You can say whatever you want about the papparazzi though. They don’t count.

  • Paul

    Doa – I’m going to put that video tape on my list of things I think I’d really rather not know about, or I’d prefer to pretend I don’t know about.

  • “Doa – I’m going to put that video tape on my list of things I think I’d really rather not know about, or I’d prefer to pretend I don’t know about.”

    and why would that be, Paul? are you uncomfortable knowing that women can be as sexually interested/active/shallow as men?

  • Are you uncomfortable knowing that women can be as sexually interested/active/shallow as men?

    That’s not exactly a new point. It seems like every critic in the world–and MaryAnn–was making that same point when Eyes Wide Shut came out a decade ago–and even then the point was old news.

  • Paul

    Well, yeah, it does leave me in despair for the future evolution of humanity. I’m afraid we’ll never evolve into those big brained humans from the future. Okay, being sexually interested is natural, and I’ve already stated elsewhere that being sexually active is okay but being sexually overactive is unhealthy, and being sexually shallow sort of speaks against itself. I’ve spent the last 20 years listening to women complain about how unhappy they are, and it usually comes back to being sexually overactive with bad boys and/or lousy parents.

  • mortadella

    His name’s Connor Mead?

    Uh, isn’t that something Vikings used to drink? Heh.

  • MaSch

    it usually comes back to being sexually overactive with bad boys and/or lousy parents.

    You mean “it usually comes back to being sexually overactive with bad boys and/or *having* lousy parents”, don’t you?

  • Paul

    MaSch, your correction is what I was intending to say, but I did used to date a girl who matched what I actually wrote. It was a complicated relationship, but I think we both came out the better for it. I was the first decent guy she dated, and she never went back to jerks afterwards.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Nice Guy ™ alert!

  • Paul

    The thing about sexual freedom is, do most women really want it? How do popular romantic movies usually end?

    Sleepless in Seattle? True love. When Harry Met Sally? Marriage. Titantic? True love. Casablanca? True love and marriage, just to two different, decent guys. So maybe we should stop pretending that a “man’s” sex life is what makes “women” happy. I’m not convinced it even makes men happy. If it did, would men and women have to drink so much to convince ourselves that it’s a good idea? If it did, would men propose marriage? Even the movie under review above implies that the character’s womanizing is because of emotional damage.

    In romance novels, it’s about finding that one guy. Maybe she has sex with others along the way, but it’s still about that One Guy. Of course, Jane Austen understood men well enough to realize that bad boys were bad news, so her heroines married (alert!) Nice Guys. Modern romance novels are too busy pandering to delusions about trying to have it both ways to make that much sense.

  • JoshB

    Heartless Bitch ™ alert!

  • Accounting Ninja

    Heartless Bitch ™ alert!

    Ha, you already knew that, didn’t you? :)

    Paul, I don’t even know where to start. Let me leave you with these nuggets o’ truth:
    -not every woman fits your definition of what women are, nor are they obligated to. It isn’t their job to recognize your niceness.
    -you may not come off as as “nice” as you think.
    -if you have had bad luck with women “choosing jerks” over you, maybe you need to examine who you are choosing and why you attract these women. Water seeks its own level.
    -movies and media depict a VERY stereotypical view that is not reality. It isn’t. Not even close. This woman despises rom-coms and romances. And don’t tell me I’m the only one. I’m not a unique snowflake of uniqueness.

    Further Reading.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Plus, I’m a little alarmed at the misogyny seeping through your comments:
    “Women are such sluts now, thinking they can ‘have it all’…stupid sluts. Why won’t they choose meeee over those jeeerks?

  • Henry

    Paul:
    What Accounting Ninja said.
    Also, I’m yet again exasperated by the gross misreading of Jane Austen. She was the original queen of snark. Why do people constantly miss that and read her books as straight up fluffy romances?

  • MaSch

    Well, apart from Paul’s statement “women who had me don’t go back to those jerks”, which does sound quite pompous, I don’t see where he …

    Oops, just remembered my vow not to engage in these kind of discussions, sorry.

    May I just remark that Paul has a point that the typical romantic heroine has shifted from Elizabeth Bennet to Lydia Bennet?

  • Paul

    I can’t believe I’m being attacked for helping an ex-g/f get over a cycle of abuse and pointing to evidence that most women are romantics at heart. And yes, Jane Austen is a very funny writer and a critic of how money warped relationships, but her heroines still wanted love.

    A friend of mine used to teach statistics. She often used the following example to point out the problems with using “average number of” as evidence.

    Average number of lovers in one’s lifetime women say are ideal: 6
    Most common answer (6 out of 10): 1
    Average number of lovers men say are idea: 60
    Most common answer (4 out of 10): 1

    So, no, not all women want that romantic ideal, but if a majority say they do, then I don’t feel bad generalizing. This also explains the popularity of the movies I mentioned.

    And my former therapist and I did discuss my relationships with women. She believed that I attracted women who wanted to feel safe. They wanted to feel safe because of past abuse, and that I, as a basically gentle man who lifted weights and practiced martial arts, could provide that feeling. But the relationships didn’t last because I ended up a father figure and that’s bad news.

    Now I do agree with you, meaning Ninja, about the negative role of the media. The constant bonbardment of often negative roles for men and women might well prevent us from discovering who we are instead of who people want us to be.

  • Victor Plenty

    Wait, 60? Really? That’s the average for the ideal number of lovers men would like to, er, experience?

    Wow. Always knew I was square, but never before had a numerical measurement for just how square I am.

    (Staying out of the rest of this discussion. If there’s one thing I can say with great confidence about romantic relationships, it’s that I’m in no position to tell anybody else they’re doing it wrong.)

  • MaSch

    Vixtor: And if you take the 40 percent who answered “1” out of the calculation, for 60 percent the ideal number would be about 99.

    I find this hard to believe.

  • Victor Plenty

    MaSch: I wonder, was 60 the mean or the median number from the initial survey population? It seems to me that might affect subsequent calculations.

    Perhaps Paul would be willing to look up his source for this study, so we can clear up such questions by reference to the full data set.

    That’s how I roll.

  • MaSch

    Victor: Even if it’s the median: 40% say one partner, only 10% give a number between 2 and 59, and 50% give 60 or higher?

    This is not how a beautiful Gaussian curve is supposed to look like, the researchers should modify their results accordingly.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Your friend’s stats prove nothing, except maybe the folly of charting “ideals” versus reality**. It’s just anecdotal, anyway. That’s just the limit of her/your experience.
    **Lots of variables could affect women or mens’ answer to “what’s ideal” questions. Bad relationships, religious/moral attitudes, media messages about what is a “good” woman or man, etc. I would be more interested in a study of actual sexual habits, because I think it would reveal not so much a gender line as you think.

    My point is, “women” don’t want X while “men” want Y. That’s flawed thinking. Human beings: some want X, others want Y. Some want both. When you get trapped into thinking otherwise, you start to build unfair resentments toward 50% of the population. I would say the same things to a woman who said “Men always want Y”.

    I’m not attacking you personally, Paul, believe me. I just have little patience for this type of stuff, even if you don’t realize how you sound. Look past that into the meat of what I’m telling you.

  • Accounting Ninja

    As for the misogyny charge I laid upon you, I’ll give you a breakdown. My apologies for the length, but I want to show how I arrived at this insulting conclusion, lest anyone accuse me of just being a Heartless Bitch. :)

    I think the increasing difficulty of making a movie about modern American sex life with sympathetic characters and a believeable happy ending just goes to show that we’ve been putting the cart before the horse when it comes to sex and love. Movies like this are the desparate flailing about of immature people making immature movies.

    Your first comment had nothing wrong with it, it wasn’t gender specific, and I can understand your sentiments. I often feel like moviemakers are still stuck in high school myself. So, fair enough. You sound sexually discerning and I can respect that.

    But then, Doa made a comment that women were just as sexual as men, (presumably) because we are all human and therefore most are sexual to some degree. You replied, and bronxbee challenged it:

    “Doa – I’m going to put that video tape on my list of things I think I’d really rather not know about, or I’d prefer to pretend I don’t know about.”
    and why would that be, Paul? are you uncomfortable knowing that women can be as sexually interested/active/shallow as men?

    To which you replied:

    Well, yeah, it does leave me in despair for the future evolution of humanity. I’m afraid we’ll never evolve into those big brained humans from the future. Okay, being sexually interested is natural, and I’ve already stated elsewhere that being sexually active is okay but being sexually overactive is unhealthy, and being sexually shallow sort of speaks against itself. I’ve spent the last 20 years listening to women complain about how unhappy they are, and it usually comes back to being sexually overactive with bad boys and/or lousy parents.

    And suddenly, it became about how women were fooling themselves thinking they wanted sex “like a man”, and how women wanted jerks. Some other choice comments:

    The thing about sexual freedom is, do most women really want it?

    You aren’t in a position to speak for “most women”; neither am I. Telling women what you think is best for them is sexist.

    So maybe we should stop pretending that a “man’s” sex life is what makes “women” happy. I’m not convinced it even makes men happy. If it did, would men and women have to drink so much to convince ourselves that it’s a good idea?

    Again, see above about telling women what’s for their own good. But, the last part shows the limit of your experience. Not everyone is drinking themselves stupid on the dating scene. The bar/club scene is only a small portion of the world. If your experience says different, then it’s only your experience, which just says more about which social circles you tend to have access to than the entirety of the single world.
    More telling women what they want/should do:

    most women are romantics at heart…..So, no, not all women want that romantic ideal, but if a majority say they do (who is “they” and where did they say this?),, then I don’t feel bad generalizing.

    And finally:

    And my former therapist and I did discuss my relationships with women. She believed that I attracted women who wanted to feel safe.

    And here’s the crux of it. I do hope she delved into why you attracted rescue cases. Attraction goes both ways. So they were attracted to your stability, but something about them had to draw you too. So, because you attract and get burned by these unstable types, you begin to form these (wrong) ideas about women that come only from your narrow experience (and I don’t mean this as an insult: all individual experience is narrow; we should never generalize about the rest of the world based on our own tastes/habits).

    Whew.

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