If you’re looking for ways to trigger some happy hormones - endorphins, mainly - then it’s best to watch Ticket to Paradise, a romantic comedy rarely seen on theaters’ marquees nowadays.
The plot is very familiar—divorced parents go to Bali to sabotage their daughter’s short engagement and wedding so she would not repeat their failures as a couple. This movie is not going to change the world but you would feel good coming out of the theater.
Top billing the movie is rom-com queen Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) and 90s matinee idol George Clooney (Up In The Air). Both Oscar winners, they play exes David and Georgia who can’t seem to have a timeout for arguments. The only thing they agree on is their love for their daughter Lily (Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever).
This is not the first time Roberts and Clooney sparred with their acting chops. The two have worked on-screen in the crime thriller Money Monster and heist movies Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve. Clooney also served as a producer for August: Osage County and as a director for Confessions of A Dangerous Mind, where Roberts was part of the cast. Their delightful on-screen chemistry has been tried and tested. Their comedic timing is perfect like a duet making beautiful harmonies.
As for the rest of the ensemble, Dever shows an almost ice-cold demeanor, expected from the stoic child of warring divorcees. The BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee is an accessory here, a lovestruck law graduate reminiscent of Anna from Frozen. But like the Disney character, Dever’s Lily knows what she wants and is willing to break what society expects of her.
Her on-screen partner, Maxime Boutier (Meet Me After Sunset) is such a scene-stealer. The Indonesian actor-musician plays Lili’s fiancé Gede with an unbridled charm that competes with Clooney’s character. You would not see a hint of intimidation as Boutier’s Gede tries to both challenge and seek the approval of Clooney’s David and Roberts’ Georgia. Mind you, these are the industry’s finest he’s sharing scenes with! Conversely, the star power of the two leads doesn’t overwhelm the performance of the supporting cast.
Boutier also serves as a tour guide of sorts into Indonesian culture, introducing us to its traditions and cuisine. These scenes tend to linger and affect the film’s pacing.
But while the story is set in Indonesia, the film was shot on Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia. The cast and crew spent a great deal of time in a pandemic bubble at the beginning of 2022 due to the spike in COVID cases. Kudos to the production design team who seamlessly brought Indonesia to the Land Down Under, while respecting Balinese culture.
Despite the challenges, director Ol Parker (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) helms an entertaining movie befitting of Hollywood royals. The filmmakers maximize the use of beautiful wide shots to immerse viewers into their “Paradise”. The colorful shots work wonders, producing one of the most gorgeous movies in Roberts and Clooney’s filmography.
The production limitations might also be the reason that the movie tends to be talky instead of employing flashback scenes. Make sure you listen closely to the conversations and monologues to learn about the heartbreaking backstory of David and Georgia. With the movie’s central theme about second chances trumping the pains of the past, Ticket to Paradise has a few somber, heavy moments that will make you empathize with the wedding saboteurs. Truth be told, I was holding back my tears.
Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris)’s comedic prowess is also a pleasant surprise. He plays Georgia’s boyfriend, Paul, who hilariously unsettles the dynamic between the ex-couple. I dare you to try not to laugh whenever his character pops up. The comedic timing is on-point.
On the downside, Parker co-penned and directed a movie that is so familiar. There’s a boat going to a resort island for a wedding. There’s a retro dance scene meant to cringe the Gen Zs. Significant others also become third wheels while almost romanticizing infidelity. It tends to be a little predictable.
There’s also the danger of impressionable Gen Zs going on a graduation vacation overseas so they could find someone to marry. I kid about the last part - but a ridiculous plot is part of Ol Parker’s filmmaking DNA.
So come to the theater to expect a straightforward, warm romantic comedy. Amid the atmosphere of doom and gloom outside, Ticket to Paradise is a breather we all need in the pandemic world. There’s so much heart in this movie that it also reminds us that sometimes we need to seize the moment and not save the good things for later.
Ticket to Paradise is now showing in Philippine cinemas.