I should probably face it: I'm never going to look like Matthew McConaughey. I'll never have those locks, those pecs, that smug grin. But by watching his movies, atrocious though they are, I might learn what makes him so irresistible to women. In his new film Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, for example, McConaughey seduces his way through most of the models in North America, sabotage his brother's wedding, and snare Jennifer Garner.
Thanks to a script "inspired by" Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, he's helped on his quest by apparitions of his former conquests, who teach him how to be an even better catch. (Though not until after he's caught in a rain of – I kid you not – the ghosts of his own used condoms. Nice.) It's a fitting tribute for a man whose filmography is replete with romantic self-help homilies, all cleverly disguised as Hollywood tat. Like a persistent but hammy phantom, McConaughey returns to haunt the screen each year with a new reminder of how far I still am from fulfilling his example of good teeth, a great tan and consistent sexual satisfaction. Yet every time, he offers a new lesson in love.
Date high school girls
Dazed and Confused (1993)
In this stoner "dramedy", our man is a twentysomething still hanging out with high schoolers, and dating teenage chicks. "That's what I love about high school girls," he tells his young pals, "I get older; they stay the same age." He seemed very cool at the time. As a teen, I tried my best, often in vain, to follow his example. I graduated from high school 10 years ago, however, and this advice has seemed sleazier and less and less appropriate.
Always put your work before your women
A Time to Kill (1996)
McConaughey plays a cocky young lawyer in this John Grisham thriller. After Samuel L Jackson kills the two young racists who've raped his daughter, our hero takes up his case. Despite the Ku Klux Klan burning down his house, driving his wife and daughter out of town, and kidnapping Sandra Bullock, with whom he's been considering having an affair, McConaughey stands by his man. But he wins in the end, and nobody nice dies, so that's ok.
Make her jealous
Before the glory days of Big Brother or the celebrity sex tape, there was EDTV, McConaughey's movie about a hapless – some might say charmless – video store clerk who agrees to have his life streamed live to millions on cable television. His girlfriend leaves him because she doesn't like the exposure, so engages in a spot of on-camera hank-panky with Liz Hurley, which brings her running back. He also gets the show cancelled by threatening to expose the producer's sexual inadequacies on camera. Smart thinking.
Don't be afraid to leave your wife for the hired help
The Wedding Planner (2001)
Here, our leading lad decides that he'd rather be with the wedding planner who organised his big day. This may be because she's so darned nice, or just because she's Jennifer Lopez. Either way, he dumps his wife and interrupts J-Lo's own wedding to her childhood sweetheart to declare his love. And whaddya know, it works! Must be the grin that did it.
Lie Through your teeth
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
McConaughey plays a charming ad executive – a very tough role to pull off, but he manages it. He bets his buddies that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Kate Hudson is writing an article about, you guessed it, how to lose a guy in 10 days. They date, she acts all girly and annoying, he tolerates it. Remarkably, despite their mutual deceit – and astounding dislikability – the blonde showponies fall in love, disregarding the film's title.
Don't let her meet your parents till it's too late
In this shlocky horror, McConaughey gets his girlfriend Kate Beckinsale pregnant before revealing his secret: he's the only regular-sized person in a family of dwarves. Stick with me; this is a real film. The next day, his tiny twin brother, played by Gary Oldman (on his knees!) turns up and teaches Kate all about dwarves. McConaughey comes to terms with his family, as does Kate, because "it's only the size of your heart that counts." That's what all my ex-girlfriends said, before they dumped me.
The perfect woman is one who's getting paid
Failure to Launch (2006)
The stallion of the silver screen plays a stay-at-home son, whose parents hire Sarah Jessica Parker to turn him into a real man and make him move out. Parker has a step-by-step process to transfer his attachment from his parents to her, which spills over into real affection. She sleeps with him, while still being paid, which is rather morally ambiguous. But when all is revealed, Matt gets over it. He's used to this sort of thing, after all (see How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days).
There's nothing wrong with being a gold digger
Fool's Gold (2008)
McConaughey is an adventurer whose wife, Kate Hudson (her again), has left him. But just as their is about to divorce go through, he finds a clue to the location of a haul of gold. The pair set off in search of the booty, whilst admiring one another's booties anew. Do they find the gold? Who cares! They find each other.