Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 4:09 am | Fair 66º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’

The goal of the film is obvious, but a better message would have made it more uplifting

2 Stars — Troubling

Written by the team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (Four Christmases and Rebound), Ghosts of Girlfriends Past revisits Charles Dickens’ device of exploring scenes from the past, present and future life of a person who needs a wake-up call.

The story focuses on Conner Mead (Matthew McConaughey), who has cynically decided to use women rather than love them after he loses his first love, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner). Trained in the playboy moves of his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) and growing up to be a successful photographer of beautiful women, he has an unending supply of ladies who willingly allow themselves to be used by him. But those who fall in love with him are left with broken hearts, and he is left alone with an empty and self-absorbed life.

Contrasted with Conner is his brother Paul (Breckin Meyer), who has chosen to love and commit his life to one woman. The reasons for their choices of very divergent paths are part of what makes the film interesting. We won’t spoil it for you, but it is obvious that learning to value committed love and marriage is the goal of this Dickenesque tale.

As is true with most of the characters of the film, Paul’s bride, Sandy (Lacey Chabert), is a stereotypical bridezilla who periodically gets hysterical. Sandy’s mother (Anne Archer) is presented as an overly sexualized woman and her father, played by Robert Forster, is a war-obsessed retired military officer. The bridesmaids are beautiful but immoral, while the groomsmen are sincere but geeky nerds.

The simple truth that we must care about the people in our lives comes through loud and clear. Living a life filled with casual sexual encounters without love is shown to be lonely and meaningless as well as hurtful to others. Though that shallow lifestyle has been shown time after time to be wrong for everyone involved, the challenge of being faithful and committed to a marriage partner continues to be difficult. Having the courage to love and commit oneself to another in marriage is what makes life truly fulfilling. If that had been shown in this film, it would have been uplifting for all to see.


» The truth that “players” end up alone is the lesson Uncle Wayne attempts to teach Conner. Do you think the film is effective in confronting such behaviors in the players who view it? Why or why not?

» Paul’s gratitude to Conner for loving and caring for him as the younger brother gives him great faith in his older brother. If you had been Paul, would you have invited Conner to your wedding? Why?

» The nature of love requires honesty. Have you ever kept something from the person you love, such as Paul did in this film? Do you believe it was a good choice? Why?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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