Ticket to Paradise reminds me of the way that Hollywood used to be lazy. Hollywood is obviously still very lazy, just in different ways. The type of laziness I’m referring to is the “star vehicle” kind of lazy. Make a movie whose entire pitch is “watch movie stars be movie stars for a hundred minutes.” And we’d come out in droves!
In other words, Ticket to Paradise is a throwback. It stars Julia Roberts and George Clooney as divorced lovers who rekindle their spark while trying to dissuade their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) from marrying a man she just met in tropical Bali. Go read the previous sentence one more time. Congratulations — you now know whether or not you want to see this movie. This movie delivers its logline, no less and cetainly no more.
To say that this movie gets a lot of mileage out of two ridiculously charismatic stars hanging out in a gobsmackingly gorgeous locale would be unfair. In fact, this movie gets all of its mileage out of that. There is nothing in this film that rises above the basic call of duty of its central conceit.
Clooney and Roberts are of course delightful to watch as exes David and Georgia Cotton. The performances are unchallenging, but in that tossed-off, megawatt way. There’s a little bit of hunger in their presence — Roberts moreso than Clooney — as if they know movies like this don’t get made as often as they used to, and they’re relishing the opportunity. It’s just fun to watch them trade barbs for an hour and a half.
I’m a firm believer that movies automatically get at least 20% better if you set them in a luscious tropical locale. It makes me more sympathetic to everything that’s happening due to psychic injection of vacation vibes. The colors and sounds of the beach massage my cortex. Ticket to Paradise is a dream in this regard: setting 90% of the movie in Bali (shot in Australia) puts me in a good mood. There are shots of seaweed farming (not convinced this is a real job) that made me want dive in and wade through the shining blue waters with the characters. I certainly would hike those gorgeous hills.
The script is exactly replacement level for this kind of project. It isn’t especially bad or good. It makes a few gaffes — more on those in a second — but also lands a few nice moments. The banter is hit-and-miss; every line is a coin flip. The overall tenor of the dialogue matters more than the lines, anyways.
Its biggest setback is as the “romance” part of the romantic comedy. In fact, for about ten minutes near the middle of the film, I thought the movie was going to do something unconventional: Make its “romantic comedy” structure resolve not with a romantic reunion, but with platonic cooperation of divorced parents. I actually wish the movie had gone that route rather than the half-baked back-in-love conclusion we get. The requisite ending drives some nonsensical plot points: Roberts breaks up her with her long-term boyfriend for literally no reason, except maybe he was a little bit clumsy, simply to get him out of the way; I think the movie should have let her stay with him.
The other romance in the film is disappointing, too. Dever is excellent, but the movie rushes us through her infatuation with Gede (Maxime Bouttier). I was frankly on the side of her parents in thinking she maybe shouldn’t commit the rest of her life to a seaweed farm as a reaction to some moderate burnout after law school. Dever’s best moments are not with Bouttier but with Roberts and Clooney, with whom she has great familial chemistry. I really bought into them as parents and daughter with simultaneous friction and affection.
There’s also a really charming turn by Billie Lourd as Lily’s partying best friend Wren. She subverts some of the stereotypes of the party-girl persona and creates a genuinely likeable, loyal character that you would believe someone like Lily would actually be best friends with. That’s an achievement for a role like this. (There are also a few hints that one draft of the film might have had her hook up with Clooney’s David — if so, they made the right choice ditching it.)
Ticket to Paradise watchable fluff, but so immensely disposable. Disposable is nice every now and then, and I had a harmlessly pleasant time watching. I just wish it was little less lazy.
- Review Project: 2022: Year in Film