History has shown that George Clooney and Julia Roberts have excellent chemistry. Both individually being great talents, their styles work well opposite each other on screen, and there's rapport in their timing. But just how far can the strength of that chemistry be stretched by a film before it snaps like a rubber band? This is the question asked and answered by Ol Parker’s Ticket To Paradise.
The new romantic comedy is clearly built to coast on the natural likability of Clooney and Roberts, but trips over its own feet by having them play characters who are easy to despise. The entire narrative is built around how much the two protagonists hate each other, and they’re so unpleasant for so long that by the time they inevitably start to soften, everything in the plot feels wholly unearned. It’s a lazy genre entry that screams of the stars figuring out a way to go on vacation together and get paid.
It certainly doesn’t take long for Ticket To Paradise to show what it is, as the film opens with George Clooney’s David and Julia Roberts’ Georgia in the midst of respective context-less conversations with characters who don’t matter complaining about the other and vomiting exposition. We learn they were married for five years and have been divorced for 20, and they do everything in their power not to see one another. Getting in the way of this practice is their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), who first brings them together for her college graduation, and then, a little over a month later, invites them to Bali so that they can attend her surprise wedding.
Lily meets her husband-to-be, Gede (Maxime Bouttier), while on a post-graduation vacation, and after a 37-day romance, she is ready to abandon her planned future as a lawyer in America to be with him. David and Georgia object to the union, but it’s not so much about the whirlwind nature of the relationship nor Lily uprooting her life as it is about them being poisoned against romance in general.
The parents decide to temper their hatred of one another so that they can manipulate their daughter to see things from their miserable point of view, all while taking advantage of local traditions to attain their goals.
George Clooney and Julia Roberts play shallow and miserable characters in Ticket To Paradise.
David and Georgia perhaps would be tolerable to follow if either one had any kind of complexity, but Ticket To Paradise’s script chooses to have them entirely defined by their relationship with one another… despite the fact that they have been divorced for 20 years. Early in the film, it’s established that Georgia works at (owns?) an art gallery, and she has a mimbo pilot boyfriend (Lucas Bravo) – a familiar trope that has been gender swapped – but that’s all that the audience is provided as far as deeper characterization is concerned beyond the plot. Clooney and Roberts play empty vessels only driven by their hatred for one another, and it’s passed off as entertainment.
Off-putting as the characters are together, their team-up to “Trojan horse” their daughter only exacerbates the awfulness as they try to exploit Balinese customs to ruin Lily’s wedding instead of just expressing their concerns. Lying about giving their blessing, stealing the wedding rings and taking Lily and Gede to a temple said to curse unwed couples would be perceived as ugly behavior even if we did like the characters, and it’s just straight awful from these unlikable jerks.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that, despite its devastating lack of likable protagonists, Ticket To Paradise fully commits to the formulaic ending that you expect to see even before the lights get low in the theater and the trailers start to roll. It earns none of the conclusions in the main plot, and it’s insulting to the intelligence of the audience.
Ticket To Paradise is a good looking movie, but natural beauty does most of the heavy lifting.
Ticket To Paradise is certainly a pretty movie – full of pretty people in pretty locations – but the style is straight out of a tourism video, and there is a tolerability limit when it comes to watching rich white people on vacation taking in beautiful sunrises and swimming with dolphins. A few years back, Adam Sandler admitted that he was influenced to make some projects that doubled as exotic vacations, and this feels like an exercise with similar motivations. Hopefully the cast and crew had a good time, because it definitely doesn’t translate on to the screen.
This is a film that could have potentially worked had it been made with a tonal shift – specifically a dark comedy edge that would accentuate all of the nastiness on display – but its commitment to try and be a bright, goofy and standard romantic comedy gets rotten results. It’s a movie exclusively made for those with an unconditional love of both George Clooney and Julia Roberts because it’s a prerequisite for any enjoyment in what they are doing here.
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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