Instead of Getting a Ticket to Paradise, Get a Ticket to Another MovieMovies Reviews George Clooney
One of the biggest tragedies of the modern age is that big-budget rom-coms have become almost obsolete. While back in the good ol’ days (the 2010s, even), films like Just Go With It and 50 First Dates were equipped with a healthy budget of around $80 million, present-day rom-coms are not given the same royal treatment, and tend to go straight to streaming and fly mostly under the radar as a result. Which is why, when the world caught news that ‘90s and early-2000s rom-com darlings Julia Roberts and George Clooney were co-starring in a $60 million rom-com bound for a coveted and increasingly scarce theatrical release, one couldn’t help but anticipate that it marked the genre’s exhilarating renaissance. Alas, this exciting prospect only makes the crushing disappointment that is Ticket to Paradise that much more devastating.
Ticket to Paradise follows the impossibly debonair David (Clooney) and his quick-witted gallerist ex-wife Georgia (Roberts), who loathe one another to a comical degree. The exes are dead-set on avoiding one another for the rest of eternity, but as life (or rom-com plots) goes, they are forced to come together when their aspiring-lawyer daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) announces she is moving to Bali to marry seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier), whom she met on a post-grad vacation. In a desperate attempt to stop their daughter from making the same catastrophic mistake they did a couple decades prior, David and Georgia travel to Bali. Hilarity ensues.
Except it doesn’t. A high-concept premise undeniably ripe for faux pas and endless farce falls flat almost the second David and Georgia touch down in Bali. The odd-ex-couple hatches a plan to feign support for Lily and Gede while tampering with their wedding behind-the-scenes—a “trojan horse,” David calls it. But if you come into Ticket hoping it will actually commit to its own premise, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
David and Georgia only end up making about one-and-a-half feeble attempts to get between the happy couple, with ideas so void of humor or creativity that they end up feeling a lot more cruel than funny. Surely this set-up calls for something a little more wacky and creative than just… stealing a ring.
The plot almost completely drops off halfway through to make room for stale, safe and not particularly funny humor. For the majority of its runtime, Ticket bounces between scenes where David and Georgia unconvincingly bicker in a way that reveals absolutely nothing about their characters, and insecure attempts at G-rated raunchy humor. To paint a picture, one of the film’s running jokes involves a big ol’ pack of condoms; another centers around one of the characters really liking to get her drink on. If a pack of multi-colored contraceptives isn’t funny enough for you, then don’t worry! At least the film has more jokes where the protagonists—wait a second—make fun of Balinese culture? Sorry to be that person, but shouldn’t a throwback to funny wedding-stopping antics of rom-coms past, a la Meet the Parents or My Best Friend’s Wedding, actually be funny?
Perhaps if Ticket had abandoned its jackpot plot concept for something more potent, its midway change of course would have been less of a let-down. To his credit, director Ol Parker nobly attempts to forge a “love is the most important thing” message in place of the original conceit, but he sadly makes the crucial mistake of failing to make either of his central relationships particularly plausible or compelling.
The young lovebirds, Lily and Gede, who are supposed to make the old cynics believe in love again, so profoundly lack chemistry that you may find yourself forgetting why David and Georgia are even in Bali to begin with. To make matters more dire, Parker and co-writer Daniel Pipski seem to have forgotten to give the couple anything in common. (Well, they both love Bali, which might be a compelling common denominator if one of the film’s running jokes wasn’t that it’s impossible to visit the island and not fall in love with it.)
Then there’s David and Georgia. Unsurprisingly, Clooney and Roberts are magnetic, and all it takes is a few seconds of them on screen to remember that these are irrefutable, bonafide movie stars. Clooney plays David with his usual breezy, cool-as-a-cucumber disposition, nailing the comic timing of his few-and-far-between punchlines, and reminding us, once again, that he can bring star power to even the hollowest of roles. Of course, it’s a walk in the park for Roberts to keep up with her co-star’s charisma, and her witty sharpness turns a bitter divorcée into a chic, tough, scintillating schemer. While it is always fun to watch Clooney and Roberts work their magic, there is something undeniably irksome about their characters’ relationship. David and Georgia’s unmitigated, profound hatred for one another is never truly explained or justified, which unsurprisingly makes a film about sworn enemies fall apart at the seams.
Ticket to Paradise has all the components for a successful rom-com: A strong cast, a playful and inventive premise, a beautiful location. But the cast isn’t given much to do, the premise gets lost along the way, and even though the film was shot mostly on location in Australia, its oversaturated and sterile cinematography makes it look like CGI. The big-budget rom-com may make a comeback one day, but it’s safe to say that day isn’t today.
Director: Ol Parker
Writers: Ol Parker, Daniel Pipski
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Maxime Bouttier, Lucas Bravo
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate defender of Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter for her latest questionable culture takes.