Ticket to Paradise Review – George Clooney and Julia Roberts Bring Joyous Chemistry to a Film That Just Wants to be Good Fun

There’s something genuinely refreshing at the core of Ol Parker’s Ticket to Paradise. No, it’s not the humdrum, routine script co-written by Parker and Daniel Pipski. It’s definitely not the familiar will-they-won’t-they narrative of divorcee parents teaming up to thwart the rapid relationship and impending nuptials of their newly graduated lawyer-in-waiting daughter. And it’s most certainly not the attempt to bring the culture of Bali to life on screen, although that is appreciated.

No, the refreshing aspect of this bright and energetic romantic comedy is the genuine chemistry between co-leads George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Clooney’s David is suave and debonair, maintaining an ego that masks his true emotions behind a snarky bullish behaviour that throws snide quips at everything that Roberts’ Georgia does. Ticket to Paradise opens with the two ‘at work’, telling a colleague about why they loathe one another so much. It’s all set dressing for antics that will keep David and Georgia at each other’s heels throughout much of the film.

Forced together to bring some semblance of civility to their daughter Lily’s (Kaitlyn Dever) graduation, David and Georgia can’t help but one-up each other as they shout out about who loves Lily more in an auditorium full of excited parents and family members watching their child graduate college. Everything’s a competition between the two, and it’s in these snappy moments that the mischievous grin of Clooney erupts into existence, divining a joyful energy out of Roberts that we haven’t seen in years.

David and Georgia drop Lily and her close friend Wren (Billie Lourd) off at the airport for their trip to Bali as a wind down getaway before ‘real life’ kicks in. Flash forward a month and Lily has found love in the guise of Maxime Bouttier’s seaweed farmer Gede, the two almost instantly announcing an engagement and impending marriage. There’s an off-the-moment vibrancy that yearns for deeper exploration in the relationship between Lily and Gede, where these two young lovers recognise the precious nature of life and the need to take it head on, living with no regrets.

For Lily and Gede, they love each other because it’s what the narrative requires. Dever and Bouttier work brilliantly together, the two imbuing the energy of young lovers who realise that their romance is not just a holiday fling. While there are moments of Lily pushing her expectations of their upcoming marriage, it’s clear that their romance is not the one that Ol Parker is truly interested in.

As such, the slight script leans too heavily on the supreme acting talents that the cast has, leaving the confident performances to do most of the heavy lifting (even if they always enjoyable Billie Lourd is criminally underused). The concept of divorcees hating each other is never truly given ground to seed; they despise each other because according to the laws of romance movies, if you’re divorced, you hate the person you once loved. There’s a naff explanation that brushes over the reason they’re divorced and despise each other, but it’s inconsequential when it comes to the story’s requirements.

After all, you’re here for the George Clooney and Julia Roberts show, and whenever they’re on screen together (which is, thankfully, frequently) you’re reminded of what tangible chemistry feels like on screen. So often we’re presented on screen with the Hollywood idea of chemistry, with two actors pushed together because they tick the right algorithm boxes. Yet, the ease and playfulness that Clooney and Roberts have with one another reminds us how that kind of energy cannot be forced or imitated. It has to come from within the actors themselves.

There’s a genuine comfort that comes with seeing both actors comfortably slip back into the romantic comedy format after spending years away from the genre. Whether it’s chuckle-worthy moments like when David gets bitten on the leg by a dolphin, or a delightfully daggy beer-pong sequence where cold brews are replaced with arak wine, leading to a boozy dance sequence, there’s enough comedic beats to showcase why Clooney and Roberts are two bonafide Hollywood screen legends. It can be easy to brush them off because they’ve become so familiar to viewers nowadays, but it takes impressive acting talent to be able to swing from charming comedy to genuine emotionality in the space of a scene. I won’t deny it, there are some climactic moments where David and Georgia are rediscovering why they loved each other in the first place, and the dreams they shared when they were younger, which elbowed me right in the emotions.

Again, it’s the actors doing the heavy lifting, and not the script. They’re supported by the truly stunning vistas of Queensland, Australia, which subs in (mostly) for Bali. Much of the film takes place on pristine beaches, or watching sunsets over the ocean, or hiking through the glorious rainforests. It’s almost a shame that this is Australia in disguise, because gosh, it’s one heck of a tourist advertisement for the state.

What isn’t a shame is how devoted Ticket to Paradise is with the culture of Bali. Sure, there’s a Hollywood-edge with how it’s presented on screen, with much of the true spirit of Balinese culture being sanded off and buffed out, but the narrative delights in exploring this often underrepresented (in Hollywood) area of the world on film. If the visuals of Queensland might inspire tourists to visit the state, then hopefully the imitation of Balinese life might inspire tourists other than Aussies to visit the island region.

While there’s been a smattering of romantic comedies throughout the years – Crazy Rich Asians, Marry Me, the upcoming Bros – the genre genuinely feels like a rarity. Ticket to Paradise isn’t exactly the most exciting or memorable entry in the genre, but it does at least feel like a nice holiday that lifts your spirits. It’s good to remember that films don’t always need to aspire to be great, challenging, or subversive. Sometimes aspiring to simply be ‘good fun’ is enough, and that’s what Ticket to Paradise delivers in spades.

Director: Ol Parker

Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever

Writers: Ol Parker, Daniel Pipski

Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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