Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Unorthodox Christmas: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)

Director: Mark Waters (also did Mean Girls and Just Like Heaven- two of my favorite movies)
Writers: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (co-wrote "The Hangover")

Connor Mead- Matthew McConaughey

Paul Mead- Breckin Meyer
Jenny- Jennifer Garner
Sandra- Lacey Chabert
Sgt Volkom [Sandra's father]- Robert Forster

Brad- Daniel Sanjuta

Uncle Wayne- Michael Douglas
Past- Allison Vandermeersh- Emma Stone
Present- Melanie, Connor's assistant- Noureen DeWulf

Ghost of Future Girlfriends- Olga Maliouk


Some spoilers...
unless of course you've never seen/read any version of "A Christmas Carol"

Every year, you kinda need at least one adaptation of "A Christmas Carol."
But instead being a miser who needs to change in order to escape eternal damnation, our protagonist who gets visited by three spirits is a chauvinistic playboy photographer... and if he doesn't change, the results are practically the same as the original story. Except the significant death that takes place in the future is something more abstract...

We start with Connor Mead (vintage McConaughey) at work-- photographing hot models in lingerie in various settings. Also get to know a bit about how he interacts with the ladies, which includes hot make-out sessions and breaking up over conference call. (And you thought a break-up over a text or voicemail was bad...)
But he has to do this break-up "in bulk" because he needs to get to his brother's wedding rehearsal. Despite the fact he does not believe in the institution of love and marriage, his brother is the only person in his life willing to stand by him despite all his personality flaws. Kinda like Fred in the original "Christmas Carol"-- but the relationship is hashed out more and a lot of drama accompanies it.

On top of that, Sandra/Sandy (Lacey Chabert from "Mean Girls"/"Wild Thornberries" fame) is a highstrung bridezilla that has her moments...
Her first episode is over lack of figs, which she asked for, in the salad- hilarious stuff. Especially when Connor off-handedly adds as he leaves the room "some figs would have been nice..."

Also among the guests are "The Sergeant"- father of the bride and Korean War veteran ("we didn't get a wall... we got a TV series starring Alan Alda"), a MILF of a future mother-in-law, nerdy groomsmen and bridesmaids that cover the three basic hair colors (blonde/brunette/redhead).
The hilarity practically writes itself.

Then of course there's the maid of honor/wedding planner who happens to be Connor's childhood sweetheart Jenny... although their relationship is a little more complicated than that and is the very reason Connor turned how he did.
Although his Uncle Wayne (who took over guardianship when his parents died in a car accident) had a lot to do with that as well.
Which explains why he's the activating incident of this main plot-- our Jacob Marley, but without all the chains.

There's plenty of drama, but this is meant to be a very goofy fun movie.
Particularly goofy is the notion of Brad- the sex that Sandra brought for Jenny. Nobody is that freaking perfect!
At the same time, though, my one nitpick is the mechanics of the ghosts. I guess "Scrooged" some of them were very violent (ok, just Carol Kane), so it makes sense that Connor gets smacked around by a couple of the ghosts. But he first meets the ghost of his Uncle Wayne in the bathroom taking a piss... how the hell do they explain that?!

The one thing that separates this from all the other "Christmas Carol" adaptations I've seen is the fact that this doesn't happen in the wee hours of the night. It's early evening and Connor is able to return to the pre-wedding party after each ghostly visit. This opens up some interesting possibilities as well as chances to fix things little by little. But being a bit of an idiot (as well as a pathological liar), he's unable to take full advantage of this and actually makes things worse the more he tries to fix them.

It's interesting to see Emma Stone as the first ghost namely because this was before she hit it big in "Easy A"- the same sense of humor is still there. We start in the 80's with lots of great music playing in the background as well as crazy outfits. Also explored is Connor's past with Jenny and how he screwed things up with her (personal note: not a fan of his hairstyle in the latter flashbacks- that long hair isn't attractive).
Also interesting is that the ghost of Present is actually still living and very present in Connor's life as his assistant, Mel. This is where he's able to go freely through the parties (both the wedding and one Mel concocted to appease the three conference call girls) undetected and hear what other people think about him behind his back. True to his character, his brother is the only one fully supportive of him.

Like all the Future ghosts, the final "girlfriend" is mute- when I first saw the trailers, I thought it was Amanda Seyfried (doppelganger alert!), but she's actually a Ukrainian actress with very few credits to her name. She's also the only Future ghost dressed in white (opposed to black or gray).

Considering it's a chick flick, everything predictably works out in the end. There's an incident in the 3rd act that almost derails the entire wedding involving one of the bridesmaids. Connor learns the error of his ways with the third ghost and he patches up all the core relationships of the story. [As for the "death" in the future I previewed-- watch the movie and find out. It's kinda sad, but it isn't nearly as heartwrenching as all those Tiny Tim deaths throughout the adaptations-- don't know why, but it always kills me despite knowing he'll be all right in the end]

This was one of those movies my dad saw in-flight and recommended we see. Beside the line about the figs, his favorite came towards the end after the final ghostly escapade-

"You there, boy, what day is it? Is it Christmas?"
"No, it's Saturday, you moron!"

Another funny tidbit that came around by the time I saw the movie this year:
Quentin Tarantino confessed to getting choked up in the flashback when it's revealed Jenny gave Connor his first camera :P and he wound up becoming a photographer

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