Reel Shorts | Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

1 05 2009

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Twelve years ago, Bill Bellamy showed the world “How To Be a Player.” By reworking a familiar twist with winning results, another player gets his comeuppance in the entertaining and funny romantic comedy, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.”

While Tim Meadows may have starred in “The Ladies Man,” even he would have to admit that much like M.C. Hammer he can’t touch photographer and playa extraordinaire Conner Mead (Matthew McConaughey). Conner runs through ladies with the ferocity and disdain that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt does to races. In the film’s opening minutes, Connor simultaneously dumps a set of women on a conference call while in the middle of a tryst with another unsuspecting victim. Continually looking to add more notches to his “love belt,” Conner has no time for feelings or emotions, only for each ladies ultimate prize.

For a man who has plans to be a permanent playa, the thought of attending his brother Paul’s (Breckin Meyer) wedding leaves him less than overjoyed. Connor has slept with everyone of the bridesmaids except one and his former childhood love, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) is also in the wedding party. Held in the home of his hero and playa role model, the late Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), Connor is disgusted that the ladies have decorated his uncle’s “love palace” for the ceremony. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t hide his contempt for everyone and everything involved including destroying the couple’s wedding cake and pushing up on the mother of the bride, Vonda (Anne Archer).

But it is Jenny who sees through all of Conner’s bravado to the scared insecure little boy that he was many years ago when they were childhood sweethearts. Even she can’t stand the sight of Conner who has more game than Hasbro. After a chance encounter with the ghost of Uncle Wayne, Conner is encouraged to “make that change.” He will soon not only see the error of his player ways, but will experience something unfamiliar to him . . . feelings. Borrowing the popular and familiar device from “A Christmas Carol,” Connor is visited by three ghosts who take him back to experience all of his foibles and shortcomings ultimately helping him come to grips that if he doesn’t change his ways that he is headed for a life of loneliness, despair and isolation.

All though his past experiences, Jenny is everywhere. Whether receiving his first camera from her, witnessing her first kiss from a high school competitor or breaking her heart by leaving in the middle of the night, Connor may have slept with hundreds of women but Jenny is his love alpha and omega. Unable to trust and rely on the undependable Connor, Jenny is setup with a handsome Barack Obama-esque renaissance man, Brad (Daniel Sunjata) who seemingly is prepared to fill any void that she needs filled.

By minimizing McConaughey and employing creative storytelling, screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore keep the laughs coming while at the same time not turning him into a caricature or film cliche. While  McConaughey’s actions towards the women are hateful, misogynistic and despicable, he retains a likability that helps the audience remain connected with him throughout. the film features some interesting touches such as Connor being drenched by the tears of all of the women he has hurt. Garner dusts off her “13 Going on 30” persona using the same young girl who portrayed her in that film in a similar role here. She displays some poignant vulnerability in a key scene where she gives her heart to the callous Connor only to wake up alone in the morning.

But it is Douglas who delivers the film’s best performances and is the REAL reason that this film works. Playing a graying, Hugh Hefner-esque 70s’ swinger, he advises his young nephew in the ways of seduction and literally steals every scene that he’s in. Acknowledged as the inventor of the phrase, “MILF,” Uncle Wayne’s cruises for ladies in his caddie also known as the “Stabbin Wagon.” His tutorial to young Connor at a club is priceless as he opens up his “player’s manual” to his prized pupil. “Players never die, they just try their luck at another table,” utters the aging Playboy. Whether that’s true or not, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” shows that even the most callous person could change their player stripes!

Grade: B

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