Ticket to Paradise (United States/United Kingdom, 2022)October 21, 2022
Ticket to Paradise is a frothy concoction that will
appeal to those whose movie-loving sensibilities are anchored to the rom-coms
of the 1980s and 1990s. Had this movie been made 25 years ago, it likely would
have been hailed for its whimsy, for the chemistry exhibited between leads
George Clooney and Julia Roberts, and for the repartee that characterizes the
best of their interactions. Those things remain true in 2022 but audiences have
moved on from the genre, which is marooned on Lifetime TV and Netflix. Although
this features high wattage stars, it represents a curiously anachronistic attempt
at escapist fare.
Clooney and Roberts are great together, which isn’t unexpected.
Both are Oscar-winners on merit and there was an era when each could command the
heftiest of paychecks. In recent years, they have scaled back their acting engagements
but, despite doing so, they have retained their ability to captivate audiences.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to Ticket to Paradise beyond their
mutual charisma. Essentially, this is the story of how two ex-spouses rediscover
the things about their relationship that brought them together in the first
place. There’s not a lot more to it than that.
If Ticket to Paradise had been all about the two
stars, it would have been fine, but it’s not and therein lies the problem. The
Clooney/Roberts dynamic is too frequently interrupted by another plotline – a dull,
unimaginative clunker of a love story between Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) and her fiancé
Gede (Maxime Bouttier). Every narrative thread featuring these two characters
reeks of artifice. It’s the catalyst for bringing the divorced couple together
(their parting wasn’t amicable and things haven’t gotten better during the
intervening years) and plunking them down in “paradise” a.k.a. Bali (which is
actually Queensland, Australia).
Lily is the one good thing that came out of the five-year
marriage of David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts), lovers whose passion for one
another turned to ashes like the lakeside house he was trying to build for his family.
After graduating from college, Lily and roommate Wren (Billie Lourd) decide to
take a vacation to the Indian Ocean island destination. While there, Lily meets
and falls in love with the too-good-to-be-true Gede. Their romance is
fast-tracked and, only a little more than a month later, Lily has tossed aside
her future (including law school) to become engaged to Gede and farm seaweed.
When they get the news, David and Georgia discover that they are united in
their desire to stop their daughter from making a catastrophic mistake. So they
jump on a plane and pretend to tolerate one another as they act like they are
in favor of the union…all the better to break it up.
Watching Ol Parker’s tepid film provides a lesson in the
still-potent currency of movie stardom. Replace Clooney and Roberts with two
lesser-known (and lesser) actors and no one would consider seeing Ticket to
Paradise because it wouldn’t be worth the price of admission (even if it
was free). Rom-coms are heavily dependent on the chemistry between actors and the
Clooney/Roberts combo can conjure sparks out of thin air. Their snarky combativeness
is believable when it needs to be and their growing renewed affection is
But Lily and Gede are boring. Their story is lifeless
and, with all apologies to the actors, the characters are inconsequential. Even
Billie Lourd’s Wren is more interesting and she’s stuck in the thankless “best
friend” role. I kept waiting for her to have something to do but, no, she just
sort of hangs around the periphery, smiling and making the occasional PG sex
Parker’s goal with Ticket to Paradise isn’t to re-invent the romantic comedy for a 2020 audience but, even with the more modest intention of offering a throw-back, he doesn’t succeed as well as he should have. He’s got the right actors and the perfect setting (Queensland makes for a beautiful Bali stand-in). All he’s missing is a good screenplay. And, despite having the magic that that comes from pairing movie maestros, he can’t conjure greatness (or even competency) out of the pages that tell this disappointing tale.
Ticket to Paradise (United States/United Kingdom, 2022)
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Maxime Bouttier, Billie Lourd, Lucas Bravo
Screenplay: Daniel Pipski, Ol Parker
Cinematography: Ole Bratt Birkeland
Music: Lorne Balfe
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures