‘Ticket to Paradise’ review: A charming romcom devoid of real hurt
Ol Parker’s Ticket to Paradise is the first time George Clooney and Julia Roberts come together in a romcom, and it must be plainly stated that fervent prayers of an entire movie-going generation have been answered. Like it or not, it is a big deal. Roberts hasn’t starred in one of these for over two decades. Meanwhile, the last time Clooney came close to playing a romantic lead, he was a divorce lawyer playing mind games with a ‘professional’ gold-digger (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in Coen brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty (2003). Clooney thrives on dysfunction in his movies, while Roberts has proved to be one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, one who can straddle genres with the same ease as kids playing hopscotch. The two also happen to be the most assured, charming movie stars from a bygone era, who remain dismissive of their good looks, and are never too far from puncturing all the anticipation around them with a wisecrack. A romantic comedy starring them could never not work, right? And yet, Ol Parker’s film leaves a lot to be desired by the end. For what it’s worth, it’s definitely not for the lack of trying.
Clooney plays David and Roberts plays Georgia — a couple, who were divorced after five years of marriage. They try to get along once in a while for their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) — who recently graduated from law school, and plans on travelling to Bali before joining the daily grind. Much to David and Georgia’s shock, things take a sharp turn when Lily falls in love with a local boy named Gede (Maxime Bouttier), and announces that she will get married to him and live with him on his sea-weed farm in Bali.
Rekindling the old flame
The stage is set for the divorced parents to team up once again to trick their daughter into calling off the wedding. Their own bitter, middle-aged hearts know better than to fall for the spontaneity of youth, and how much of heartache it can leave you with. It’s a par for the course premise for sunny Hollywood studio production, starring two of the biggest Hollywood sweethearts in a farway, exotic land. As soon as both David and Georgia get on that plane to Bali, one knows that the trip is going to end with the former couple rekindling the old flame. The more intriguing question is — how will they go about it? Will the scenes have a studied style to them, trying to dissect the messiness and hurt festering over decades? Or will we glaze over to a ‘happy ending’ without it feeling fully earned?
To its own credit, Ol Parker’s film seems to be aware of the kind of film it is. It’s not a gritty film that wants to inconvenience the viewer by posing tough, morally ambiguous questions. It wants to showcase Bali in all its Instagram glory, the movie stars are their most air-brushed selves. The film wants to offer comfort and happiness to its audience, even tuck them to bed, if need be.
As Gede and Lily, both Maxime Bouttier and Kaitlyn Dever, seem wise beyond their years. Sadly, this is the wildest subversion by the film — the fact that the kids with their earnestness force the elderly couple to recalibrate their choices about their own youth. The pranks orchestrated by David and Georgia to delay the engagement are flimsy and juvenile. The film also owns and peddles very safe, conventional views on modern relationships — almost as if they were scripted by the film’s marketing team for their target audience rather than a screenwriter.
Despite all the frothiness, both Clooney and Roberts rise above the material, affecting the script with their own distinct personalities. In one scene, Clooney sits at an after-hours bar like only a movie star can, sipping a cocktail, reminiscing about his days of giddy romance with Roberts’ character. And how, despite their best intentions, it slowly turned into poison for both of them. Roberts brings her customary light touch to a scene involving a younger beau, who has followed her all the way to Bali, to surprise her. When he proposes to her, she takes great care while breaking his heart. However, it’s also one of the film’s biggest flaws that the heartbreak never really registers. Like a dozen things in the film, it’s forgotten moments after the scene ends.
By the end, one is forced to wonder if the film would have made more sense if it was a serious relationship drama. Parents trying to talk to their daughter inside a hotel room, where cutlery is flung across the room and people are screaming over each other, with hand-held cameras capturing all the action. That’d be an entirely different movie. Ol Parker and Co’s failure isn’t because of the movie they chose to make, their failure lies in not being able to imbue enough real hurt into the narrative, which is why even the ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t make the audience feel much. Ticket to Paradise wants to be the equivalent of a hug, but as hugs go, only a few seconds longer can turn something comforting into suffocating.