Ghosts From Girlfriends Past (2009)

Rated PG-13 Our ratings: V- 2; L- 1; S/N-3 . Running time: 1 hour 40 min.

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked,
for you reap whatever you sow.
Galatians 6.7

Connor sees his childhood friend Jennifer at his brother s wedding rehearsal.
2009 New Line Cinema

Director Mark Waters’ is the more interesting of the two cad films, in that his script borrows from Charles Dickens’s holiday classic A Christmas Carol. The opening of the film establishes that fashion photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is indeed a cad, seducing the model he is currently shooting, while at the same time holding an on-line conference call to tell three gorgeous girl friends that he is breaking up with them. This saves his precious time, he explains. His ambition is to seduce all the eligible women he encounters and then dump then—he measures the length of his tawdry relationships in minutes, not days or weeks!

Connor shows up late at the wedding rehearsal of the younger brother he had raised when their parents had died in an auto accident, Paul (Breckin Meyer), only to becloud the rehearsal dinner when he spews forth his opposition to marriage as an obsolete, enslaving relationship. He sinks even lower in the esteem of the others when he manages to destroy the elaborate wedding cake. Even Jenny (Jennifer Garner), his childhood friend, gives up her hope that he can ever change. But in between these two events, and other caddish moments, the ghost of Connor’s Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) shows up to warn him that he will have three more spectral visitors. Uncle Wayne had been a playboy also; indeed, we see in subsequent visits by the ghosts of past girl friends that it was his Uncle who had inculcated in his nephew his values. The now remorseful Uncle Wayne wants to warn Connor of the sad consequences of such behavior. The three ghosts, the first of whom is that of the high school girl who was his first conquest, take him back to his past, present, and his lonely future. They show him much that he has forgotten—such as that it was little Jenny who gave him his first camera. The ghost of the future shows him of the forlorn fate that awaits him unless he changes.

This is an enjoyable cautionary tale, but, as indicated in the introduction, a double fantasy. The ghost business is easier to accept than the second, and perhaps less obvious one—the exclusively male fantasy that almost all women are so dumb and compliant that they would accept the treatment that a charming cad like Connor dishes out. The time is supposedly in the present, not in the Fifties: it is as if the Feminist Movement never took place. I realize that this is just a little escapist tale, but as for myself, and hopefully the female members of the audience, a little more touch of realism would have been welcome. My advice is to wait until the film comes out on DVD—there are some good laughs in it—and in the meantime watch the far more perceptive, and also more realistic, comedy drama about a cad that stars Michael Caine in one of his great roles, Alfie.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. How has Uncle Wayne reaped what he sowed?

2. What did you think of Paul’s defense of his boorish brother? How has he become a person of grace? Also Jennifer?

3. What do you think of the belief that Connor has inherited from his uncle, “The person with the most power in a relationship is the one who cares the least.” What do you think he means by power? Compare this to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.

4. How is Jennifer’s repairing the smashed wedding cake like a parable that describes Connor and his life?