[Editor’s note: I haven’t seen this movie. I don’t watch a lot of movies. I saw the trailer about six years ago and I feel like that’s close enough. This review is based entirely on my perception of what the movie might be about]
Ghosts of Girlfriends past is a 2006 movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner. McConaughey plays teenager Steve or Mike, a highly successful corporate lawyer with a fear of commitment. He just goes through relationship after relationship, more focussed on himself and his career as Corporate Guy than settling down and finding the woman he loves. Everything is going great (Steve/Mike is up for the big promotion at his business firm!) until he meets a quirky witch Sarah played by Jennifer Garner. Sarah isn’t like normal women, she can do magic! Now, after spending the night with Sarah and NEVER calling her again, Steve/Mike has been hit by a devious curse! Now he is hounded by the ghosts of the women that he has ritualistically murdered and eaten prior to spending the night with Sarah. These are the titular Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Now, Steve/Mike must track down Sarah to break the curse! Only problem is, she won’t lift the curse until Steve/Mike proves he can overcome his own personal curse, his fear of commitment! Michael Douglas is also in the movie. He plays a cat.
So, first things first, I’m a little confused by the direction of this movie. Marketed as a romantic comedy, I find the decision to make Matthew McConaughey a serial killer/cannibal teenager to be needlessly distracting. Movies, like other forms of narrative, need a strong protagonist for viewers to latch on to. Someone not-too-divisive with admirable qualities who’s a little down on their luck. We identify with this person and cheer their victories. The aggressive focus on cannibalism makes it difficult to identify with this character. It appears from the trailer that they want to sell the McConaughey character as a sort of charming everyman, ala Tom Hanks in Big or Cary Elwes in Saw 3D. I don’t feel like viewers will be able to make this connection with McConaughey’s character and I think the overt cannibalism plays a big part in that. It would have been interesting had the movie gone for a more Silence of The Lambs type tone and focus but that certainly doesn’t appear to be the case with this film.
The odd choices continue with Garner’s character, Sarah. If Alias came out in the late eighties, that’d make Garner about 68 when this movie came out in 2006. That’s simply too old to play the main romantic lead against what is essentially a very young boy. Any scenes that feature the two together are probably really, really uncomfortable. As viewers, we definitely don’t want to watch this sort of thing. It’s uncomfortable in the highest degree. Typically, romantic comedies feature couples that are approximately the same age. Viewers are used to this as they themselves often date within their own age range. A 51 year age difference is distracting, especially when the movie makes no effort to address it in a meaningfully way.
I did, however, think that the supernatural elements were well-handled. A lot of movies shy away from heavy issues, but this film allowed the victims of terrible crimes (the titular Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) the chance to have their voices heard. That’s important advocacy from a social perspective and it’s totally justified within the world of the film. While I may have some issues with the strange casting and offbeat story, I have nothing to complain about here. The hilarious scene that’s probably in the movie where Matthew McConaughey wants the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to stop talking but they won’t so he gets distracted and makes a work error is probably really funny! Again, I haven’t seen it.
A lot of the cinematography that I think might be in the movie is absolutely beautiful. Director Juan Pablo Gervais probably went all-out to make sure this movie looked as spectacular as possible. Shots that I sorta remember from the trailer bring to mind sweeping epics like Cold Mountain or Lawrence of Arabia. Gervais did a great job and it’s a damn shame he didn’t take home the Oscar for Best Director.
Ultimately, there’s a lot wrong with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. While the direction might be great, tonal issues sink this very confused movie. The central plot (McConaughey learning the ills of his ways and committing to Garner) is rendered very uncomfortable by the dynamics of the relationship (Old Woman/Young Boy) and the portrayal of the protagonist (Monstrous Cannibal). I’d tentatively recommend this to fans of the Romantic Comedy genre, but only after they brace themselves for a difficult and uncomfortable experience.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: 4.2/10