“I’m a lonely ghost of a man.”
Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a successful playboy; photographer by day, ladies’ man by night, Connor has no plan to settle down in the near future. Connor heads home to support his younger brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) during Paul’s wedding. It is there that Connor inconfronts Jenny (Jennifer Garner), the woman that got away and the only woman Connor has loved consistently all of his life. On the eve of Paul’s wedding, Connor is visited by three female spirits from his past, and the spirit of his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the man that taught Connor everything he knows. The spirits show Connor how he became the man he is today and warn him of the man he may become if he does not open his heart.
Though this is hardly a true take on A Christmas Carol, Connor does have some similarities with our old (very old) friend, Ebenezer Scrooge. For one, there’s the ghost thing. For another, Connor is stingy with his affection – not unlike how Scrooge is stingy with his money. It should be noted that I mean Connor is stingy with his emotional affection; he certainly does not hold back on the physical affection…
Intimacy vs. Isolation
Let’s pay another visit to Psychology 101, shall we?
Erik Erikson, our buddy that we mentioned in the classic A Christmas Carol, the beginning of this Ebenezer Scrooge analysis, needs to be called back for this film. Why? Because Connor Mead is not the same age as the typical Ebenezer Scrooge. No, Connor Mead is probably in his mid-to-late 30s or early 40s. At this stage, people grapple with Intimacy versus Isolation.
Taking the view that each developmental stage urges us to find a balance, let’s assume that intimacy means having loving, satisfying relationships and that isolation means alone time. If one finds a balance, there is harmony between time on your own and time with the ones we love. In the case of Connor Mead, this stage is a warning. We know this because a bizarre flash-forward brought on by the Ghost of Girlfriends Future (Olga Maliouk) shows a funeral attended only by Connor’s brother, Paul. Further evidence to support this idea comes in the form of an ill-timed revelation involving Paul and one of the bridesmaids – Donna or Diane or Debra, it’s hard to remember which one. Connor is the one who appeases Paul’s fiancee, Sandra (Lacey Chabert) and shows us that he can connect his own life stage – intimacy versus isolation – with that of Scrooge’s own developmental dilemma – ego integrity versus despair.
Though the film itself is pretty silly, the lesson is fairly similar to the one Charles Dickens illustrated. People, and how they make you feel, are the spirit of Christmas – or, you know, marriage – that should be carried throughout the year – or, you know, until death do you part. Connor’s story is easy to forecast from the get-go, but then, so is Scrooge’s unless you’ve never heard A Christmas Carol. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past serves as a reminder that digital dating and casual sex does not substitute for true love; and it also reminds us that true love is worth the wait, worth the work, and worth making peace with our haunted histories.
On that note, to each of my exes I say, God bless you, every one!
…But I still think we should see other people.