Ticket to Paradise (United States/United Kingdom, 2022)

October 21, 2022
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Ticket to Paradise Poster

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 equally palpable.

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 joke.

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)

Director: Ol Parker
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Maxime Bouttier, Billie Lourd, Lucas Bravo
Home Release Date: 2022-12-13
Screenplay: Daniel Pipski, Ol Parker
Cinematography: Ole Bratt Birkeland
Music: Lorne Balfe
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1:44
U.S. Home Release Date: 2022-12-13
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity)
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1