LOS ANGELES (AP) -- During the summer, romantic movies — comedic or otherwise — have usually been just "he said, she said" counterprogramming to all the robots and superheroes blasting the box office. This season, what "he" said is getting more screen time.
The focus in "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is on Matthew McConaughey as a philandering photographer who is visited by the spirits of his past trysts — all the way back to his first love (played by Jennifer Garner). It was new ground for McConaughey, who democratically tussled with Kate Hudson on screen in "Fool's Gold" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."
"Usually in romantic comedies, the girl has the guy by the leash," said McConaughey. "This story isn't a battle of the sexes. It's not about me and Jennifer Garner going back and forth, back and forth. Something I've strived for is to find comedy in not being the guy who thinks he has everything figured out, but being the guy who figures out he doesn't."
In "Management," Steve Zahn plays an aimless motel manager who falls so deeply for a traveling corporate art saleswoman played by Jennifer Aniston that he follows her around the country after their fling in the motel's laundry room. Zahn said he thinks "Management" is more like 1989's "Say Anything" than a typical modern romantic comedy.
"Most guys have pretense, and we walk around thinking we're John Travolta in 'Saturday Night Fever,'" said Zahn. "We're not. We're actually kind of idiots, but I felt this guy was accessible and vulnerable but also very honest and real. He says exactly what is on his mind when he says it. I'd never really read a character like that before."
Also taking an over-the-top shot at love is Dennis Cooverman (Paul Rust) in "I Love You, Beth Cooper." During his graduation speech, the nerdy valedictorian nervously professes his love for the most popular girl in school, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). Much to his surprise, she shows up at his door later than night for a crazy night out on the town.
"The central mystery of this movie is, 'Who is this person, Beth Cooper?'" said Larry Doyle, who wrote the screenplay and 2007 book. "Dennis learns she isn't who he thought she was over the course of the night. I could have presented her as a complete person upfront, but then the book and the movie would've just been about a wild night after graduation."
While the nerd and cheerleader only have one night together, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has "500 Days of Summer." In the offbeat time-bending romantic comedy, Gordon-Levitt plays a lovesick greeting card writer named Tom who has a monumental on-again, off-again relationship with his boss' freethinking assistant Summer (Zooey Deschanel) over a year and a half.
"Most of what Hollywood presents as love is false," said Gordon-Levitt. "It's pandering to an audience. It basically tells the audience what they want to hear instead of telling them the truth. I'm proud of '500 Days of Summer' because I don't think it does that. I think it's an honest look at what it is to be in love and fall out of love."
Other romantic highlights for summer 2009:
— "Love N' Dancing": Sparks fly and hips shake when a married schoolteacher who thinks she can dance (Amy Smart) unexpectedly finds love with her deaf dancing instructor (Tom Malloy) who has retired from ballroom competition.
— "Easy Virtue": Jessica Biel goes across the pond in this 1920s-set comedy about a gaudy American gal who marries an Englishman (Ben Barnes) — much to the dismay of his stuffy British parents (Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth).
— "The Brothers Bloom": Con-artist siblings (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo) attempt to swindle a reclusive heiress (Rachel Weisz), but one of the brothers falls for the eccentric woman during their around-the-world adventure.
— "The Proposal": Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds give new meaning to the term "workplace romance" with Bullock as a rigid Canadian-born boss who plots to marry her American assistant (Reynolds) in order to stay in the United States.
— "My Life in Ruins": "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" screenwriter and star Nia Vardalos returns to her Greek roots as a disenchanted tour guide trying to get back her mojo — or "kefi," as the Greeks call it — in the cradle of civilization.
— "Cheri": Michelle Pfeiffer plays a very different type of Catwoman in director Stephen Frears' saucy 1920s tale about a retired Parisian courtesan who has an affair with her friend's 19-year-old son (Rupert Friend). Oh la la.
— "I Hate Valentine's Day": Nia Vardalos reunites with her "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" co-star John Corbett as a commitment-phobic, Valentine's Day-hating tapas restaurant owner who is pursued by Corbett's carefree florist.
— "The Ugly Truth": Katherine Heigl plays a romantically challenged morning show producer who reluctantly agrees to follow the love advice of a chauvinistic shock jock (Gerard Butler) who was hired to boost her show's sagging ratings.
— "Adam": Love is complicated in this Sundance discovery written and directed by Max Mayer about a schoolteacher (Rose Byrne from FX's "Damages") who forms an intimate connection with Adam, her autistic neighbor (Hugh Dancy).
— "The Time Traveler's Wife": In this adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 best-selling novel, Rachel McAdams plays the title character: an artist whose husband (Eric Bana) has a genetic disorder that causes him to jump around time.
— "Post Grad": Alexis Bledel graduates from "Gilmore Girls" and "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" in this mature comedy about a graduate who moves back home with her family while trying to find a job and the man of her dreams.
— "When in Rome": A cynical New Yorker (Kristen Bell) jets to Rome for her sister's wedding and is pursued by seven suitors after plucking change out of a fountain that supposedly ensures marriage to anyone who throws coins into it.
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