Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Ghosts of Girlfriends Past</strong> (2009)

(On TV, July 2015)  For all the flack that 2000-2010 Matthew McConaughey has received for his lengthy string of undemanding roles in romantic comedies, it’s easy enough to forget that he was really, really good at it.  Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is as good a showcase for him in that mode as any of the other films in that sub-genre.  Here, A Christmas Carol crashes into rom-com conventions as McConaughey plays an unrepentant womanizer taught the error of his ways via three helpful ghosts on the eve of a wedding.  As with many films trying to mix familiar genre premises with high-concept premises, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past works best as its wildest (the scene where the protagonist meets his past girlfriends “in bulk” is the highlight), and worst when it’s saddled with obligatory emotional beats, or realise it actually has to deliver a romantic payoff beyond the jokes.  So it is that the film is an inventive delight when McConaughey acts as a bad-boy or when the ghosts take him through a tour of his romantic life.  It’s not so enjoyable when it has to go through the motions of the typical foreordained romance, or the dramatic scaffolding required to get to the triumphant ending.  But the film does make an impression: Emma Stone is nothing short of hilarious in a pre-stardom role, while Michael Douglas is slick-smooth as the kind of mentor every mother warns her son about.  Noureen DeWulf, Anne Archer, Lacey Chabert and Robert Forster also make good impressions in smaller roles.  Still, the script is a bit hit-and-miss as its better moments are saddled with more obvious ones.  In other words, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past should have been a bit better with the elements at its disposal, and occasional signs that it’s capable of much better.  But even as it is, it’s an impressive showcase for the kind of persona that Matthew McConaughey enjoyed in his rom-com heyday.

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