Insipid But Charming Rom-Com Getting Big Box Office Bucks

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PG-13 | Comedy, Romance | 1h 44m | October 21, 2022

The art and craft of acting is incredibly addictive. It’s got lows—extreme discomfort and embarrassment—that make the highs—rapt audiences in the palm of one’s hand, weeping at one’s drama and hysterical at one’s comedy—an absolute flood of endorphins. Master actor John Gielgud didn’t call acting “half shame, half glory” for nothing.

And as fun as it can be to work with any highly skilled actor or actress, sometimes you hit a sweet spot with someone who elevates your game, the same as in a romantic relationship. The following actors and actresses absolutely love(d) working together: Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.

And, of course, George Clooney and Julia Roberts. They’ve been making movies together for more than 20 years now, first in 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” again in “Ocean’s Twelve,” then “Money Monster,” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

director and two actors in TICKET TO PARADISE
(L–R) Director Ol Parker, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney on set in “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

Of course, both of them drip charisma and charm—that’s the prerequisite for the job, just as Shaq’s 300-pound athletic, goliath self was a prerequisite for being the most dominating center in basketball history. This is the fundamental thing that keeps their new movie, “Ticket to Paradise,” afloat.

But the thing is, we as an audience now also have a long relationship with the two of them working together, like that couple we love to have over for dinner and go camping with. Without George and Julia, “Ticket to Paradise” would fall flat on its face with a resounding smack. As of this writing however, the film has grossed $33.7 million, and amassed another $85 million at the international box office, pushing its worldwide tally to $119 million, and its Rotten Tomatoes audience rating is currently at 56 percent.

There’s a Thin Line Between Love and Hate

family gathering in TICKET TO PARADISE
Law student Lily Cotten (Kaitlyn Dever) and seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier), (front and center), with Gede’s extended family, in “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

Naturally, the film begins with the characters of our good friends’ George and Julia not being able to stand the sight of each other. They hate each other in the specific ways that, according to comedians Sinbad and Chris Rock, only a formerly married couple can. In a fairly funny cross-cutting exposition dump, we realize they each saw their entire past together play out very differently, where each imagines themselves as the hero and the other as the complete idiot.

They got married, divorced five years later, but not before having a daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), who, at her college graduation, can’t even sit them next to each other, because they’ll fight over their shared armrest.

After graduation, Lily sets off with her former roommate and best friend Wren (Billie Lourd) for a little R ‘n’ R, before attending law school. Off to Bali they go (Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd starred together, hilariously, in 2019’s “Booksmart”) where Lily promptly falls head over heels in love with a young, handsome seaweed farmer (seaweed farmer!) Gede (Maxime Bouttier).

man and woman hold hands in TICKET TO PARADISE
Vacationing law student Lily Cotten (Kaitlyn Dever) and her new financé Gede (Maxime Bouttier) in “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

When the girls were facing danger after their incredibly inept tour boat left them a mile from shore, he happened by and rescued them. Marriage plans happen so fast it’ll make your head spin.

It makes parents Georgia (Roberts) and David’s (Clooney) heads spin even faster. Dump law school for a lowly seaweed farmer? The insanity! And so they hightail it to Bali with the intention of lying profusely: They’ll do a Trojan horse ploy of agreeing to the marriage on the surface and then sneaking out in the middle of the night and sabotaging, looting, and sacking the plans. It’s the first thing they’ve agreed on in years. Teamwork!

man and woman leaving boat in TICKET TO PARADISE
George Clooney and Julia Roberts in “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

The Family That Sabotages Together …

Due their own misadventures and residual bitterness, David and Georgia are of course deeply cynical about the institution of marriage, and so the moral dilemma and the ethical questions of causing a young, blissful love relationship to tank, flies right out the window. Law school? Seaweed farmer? What’s the objection here?

bride and maids of honor in TICKET TO PARADISE
Soon-to-be-wed law student Lily Cotten (Kaitlyn Dever) and her bestie Wren Butler (Billie Lourd (first and third from left) and Lily’s other maids of honor, in “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

The main question is how will they reconcile their own differences so that they can wreck their kid’s attempt to make a similar mistake? The fun lies, of course, in them being hampered by their inability to go more than a few seconds without bickering. They snipe viciously, re-open old wounds, and re-litigate ancient arguments. They insist they hate each other and act like it most of the time, but one also gets the feeling that they enjoy the one-upmanship.

Will Julia marry the dashing French airline pilot she’s dating? Will George be able to let his little girl go? Most importantly: Will the feisty old couple get back together?

man and girl on beach in TICKET TO PARADISE
Daughter Lily Cotton (Kaitlyn Dever) and dad David Cotton (George Clooney) have a heart-to-heart before dancing at her wedding, in “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

Relationships like this are many-layered, and so when the two of them get soused, recall their college teamwork of beating the pants off beer pong opponents, and hit the dance floor to House of Pain’s “Jump Around” to their daughter’s immense embarrassment, you can see the ending coming a mile off. But then again, you could see it two seconds after the movie started.

“Ticket to Paradise” does an old thing we’ve seen a million times before, does it pretty well, and with people we like to watch doing it, whom we’ve seen do it before. It’s likely this lack of reinvention that’s hauling in box office bucks.

Movie poster for "Ticket to Paradise." (Universal Pictures).
Movie poster for “Ticket to Paradise.” (Universal Pictures)

‘Ticket to Paradise’
Director: Ol Parker
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Maxime Bouttier, Lucas Bravo
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2022
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Mark Jackson

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Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years’ experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.



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