Even George Clooney and Julia Roberts Can’t Make Ticket to Paradise Worth the Price of Admission
The new rom-com starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney can’t quite sail through on the charm of its actors alone.
Most moviegoers over a certain age, whether they admit it or not, take some genuine interest in how movie stars of their generation are aging. It’s refreshing when a star you thought would look 30 forever starts to show traces of all-too-human crow’s feet, or those mid-forehead lines affectionately (or not) called the 11s. Even when actors succumb to slight tweaks or fillers, as many feel the need to do, we pretty much know the truth of how many times they’ve been around the sun. Movie stars may not like to think of their faces as markers of time, but for us mere mortals, it’s sometimes easier to acknowledge the passage of years in faces other than our own. We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.
Maybe that’s one reason so many people have been looking forward to Ticket to Paradise, in which George Clooney and Julia Roberts play a long-divorced couple forced to spend time together when their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) announces her sudden engagement. Though both Clooney and Roberts are “still working,” the euphemism generally used for actors as their careers shift from youthful roles to more mature ones, it’s been years since either has starred in a romantic comedy. And the two are known to be close friends. Why not put them in a romantic comedy together?
Ticket to Paradise gives you the answer. In the grand scheme, it’s fine, if fine is all you’re after. But if Clooney and Roberts are both wonderful actors, at this point they’re just not that good together, at least not in this setup. Playing ex-lovers who loathe each other but who—spoiler alert—just may become lovers again, they seem stiff and wrong, like kids dressed up in ill-fitting Sunday clothes. Whatever breezy chemistry they have in real life is nowhere to be seen in the actual movie, though you do get a taste of it in the outtakes that run during the closing credits, if you can wait that long.
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Getting there will take some work. The alleged plot goes something like this: Dever’s Lily has just graduated from law school, and she’s heading off to Bali for a post-grad blowout with her best friend Wren (Billie Lourd, who puffs some life into every scene she appears in). There, she falls in love with one of the locals, Gede (Maxime Bouttier), your simple, everyday seaweed-farming hottie, and decides to rearrange her boring life plan to marry him. Clooney’s David (allegedly an architect—we see him once in a hardhat) and Roberts’s Georgia (who’s some sort of art-world poohbah) head off to the wedding, and en route, put their differences aside long enough to hatch a plan to derail the nuptials. They think they made a big mistake in becoming husband and wife, and they’re sure Lily is heading for the same disaster. It’s their job to stop her.
Complications pile up: Gede introduces Georgia and David to the local moonshine, on which they get hilariously drunk. (The movie is loaded with “Wow, they sure do things differently in foreign countries!” gags.) After executing a number of embarrassing ‘90s dance moves in public, they pass out in bed together. Just as they’re waking up with dual ha-ha hangovers, Georgia’s younger boyfriend, Rob (Sean Lynch), a handsome French commercial pilot, shows up outside her hotel room to surprise her. One of the movie’s running gags is that Rob bores Georgia with his nonstop adoration. So naturally, upon his arrival in Bali, he proposes to her, twice. His multiple humiliations become part the movie’s creaky machinery, while Georgia seems to believe that flashing her megawatt smile is a substitute for having actual manners.
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Meanwhile, David and Georgia jab at one another, their putdowns as feeble as Nerf swords. “See you again—never!” one says. “Hopefully not that soon!” says the other. The problem, really, is that both of these characters are boring and dreadful, and not in a charming way. Director Ol Parker, known for such senior-citizen larks as Mamma Mia! Here We Go Againand The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, also co-wrote the script, with Daniel Pipski. No actor is helped by lazy writing, but that doesn’t seem to be the full problem here. As delightful as Clooney and Roberts may have been in Ocean’s Elevenand Twelve, as the estranged but electric Danny and Tess, this time they give the impression of running through shtick that’s only presumably adorable.
But back to the big question. How do they look? Great, and not just great for their age. Roberts still has that gangly, goofball elegance, strutting around on those killer stems. Clooney is going strong with the silver-fox thing. Both have really, really nice teeth—if you’re shopping for choppers, pin these on your mood board. In general, it’s good to see these two, just to check in. But nothing in Ticket to Paradise makes you miss them when it’s over.
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