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‘Ticket to Paradise’ soars with minimal turbulence

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OCTOBER 28, 2022

Grade: 3.5/5.0

While the age of “Notting Hill” and Nora Ephron has passed, the romantic comedy is far from dead. Writer-director Ol Parker embraces the spirit of a genre driven by likeability and charm in his new film “Ticket to Paradise,” piloted by George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Clooney and Roberts effuse wit and easy charm as exes David and Georgia. They squabble about everything — Georgia’s contact for David is simply “Him” — and only come together on behalf of their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever). To celebrate her graduation, Lily travels to Bali with her best friend Wren (Billie Lourd) and falls in love with a young man from the island named Gede (Maxime Bouttier). When David and Georgia learn their daughter is engaged, they put their differences aside to save their daughter from making their same mistakes.

 Clooney and Roberts are fountains of charm. They bicker with sizzling bite and band together to dominate beer pong with decidedly dad dance moves. Although Georgia’s airhead besotted boyfriend Paul (Lucas Bravo) is a delight, Clooney and Roberts are an impossibly easy couple to root for when the cold shoulder begrudgingly begins to thaw. (Lily and Gede, on the other hand, are a little trickier.)

 “Ticket to Paradise” coasts on the couple’s swoon worthy meet-cute and Gede’s adorable dimples without much else. Viewers hardly have time to sit with the new couple and feel their love flower, before they announce the engagement. It’s no wonder the parents are concerned, especially since Lily and Gede have known each other for less than a year.

The movie may abound in tropes, but it tends to them with humor and tenderness. Parker takes a few pages from his previous blast “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” in the lush shots of Bali and in the daughter’s endlessly caring but defiant sensibilities. Lily’s arc runs in step with Sophie from “Mamma Mia,” hitting the familiar beats of parental disappointment and stepping into her own identity. 

“Ticket to Paradise” often constructs its scenes around pairs — romantic, platonic, familial. Naturally, the dominant matches are romantic, but “Ticket to Paradise” takes unique pleasure in spotlighting and nurturing other relationships on screen, a possibility only unlocked because of the dazzling casting. Dever and Lourde, reunited after “Booksmart,” endear as unlikely best friends Lily and Wren.

Other dynamics slip away like shimmering sand. A chance encounter between David and Wren unfolds in a moodily lit hotel bar; Wren, already drunk, slurs to ask David about his failed marriage and Clooney’s face softens when he muses, “First it was unreal … then it was real.” His mouth turns into a soft smile, resisting its usual smirk, and it washes Clooney’s character in golden affection.

The film itself seems to bask in warmth, in the majesty of Bali. Cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland sets seemingly every important scene at sunset, coating every character in honeyed light with waves cresting and crashing behind. The movie outpours love for the picturesque landscape, punctuating several scenes with sweeping wide shots of the coastline or the beach. When Lily and Gede kiss under rainfall, the camera swoops away to capture the towering rainforest. The shot frames their love in the language of landscape instead of portraiture, which is unexpectedly sentimental and asserts environment as an essential feature of the love story.

Parker’s “Ticket to Paradise” proves that the modern audience isn’t too cynical or too self-conscious for rom-coms — at least, not when they’re done right. With a witty script, charismatic leads and sumptuous scenery, “Ticket to Paradise” proves we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to take care of it.

Contact Maya Thompson at 


OCTOBER 28, 2022