A Lightweight But Enjoyable Reunion For Julia Roberts & George Clooney

Jan 8, 2023

George Clooney and Julia Roberts have been making movies together for more than two decades now, first sharing the screen in 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” and re-teaming for “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Money Monster,” and the Clooney-directed “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (though they shared no scenes). Yet it’s not just their shared charisma and charm that accounts for so much of what works in their new movie “Ticket to Paradise.” It’s that we now, as an audience, have a relationship with them, so we’re pulling for them in a way we don’t when a random Disney personality and Instagram influencer are potentially paired in a new Netflix rom-com. “Ticket” has its problems, but it’s acutely aware of how we feel about George and Julia and uses that knowledge in ways both expected and surprising.
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It will come as no surprise to students of the romantic comedy that the screenplay (by Daniel Pipski and director Ol Parker, who last helmed “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”) begins with our stars loathing each other. And this is not just good old-fashioned seething; they haaaaate each other in the specific way that only a once-married couple can. The clever opening intercuts David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) telling other people their proposal story, and their takes are wildly, markedly divergent (“And so she starts crying,” he recalls, to her “I was so embarrassed”; he explains, “Her parents thought she was too young,” while she snorts, “They thought he wasn’t good enough for me”). They divorced, tempestuously, five years later – but not before having a daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever). Now graduating college, Lily can’t even sit them next to each other at the ceremony. They fight over their shared armrest.
Nevertheless, they both see Lily to the airport in the morning, where she’s off to Bali on a post-grad, pre-law school vacation with her bestie, Wren (played by Dever’s “Booksmart” co-star, Bille Lourd). It’s supposed to be a drunken getaway, but after Lily hooks up with Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a sexy local seaweed farmer, she starts saying things like, “I am so out of balance.” Within weeks, they’re engaged, and David and Georgia are on their way to Bali for the ceremony – intending not to bless and dote but to keep her from making the same mistake they did. It’s the first thing in years they’ve agreed on.
So what we have here is something of a remix of “That Old Feeling” and Roberts’ 1997 hit “My Best Friend’s Wedding”– particularly the moral dilemma of the latter picture, and the personal and ethical question of sinking a seemingly healthy relationship for selfish reasons. Their own misadventures, and residual bitterness, have rendered David and Georgia deeply cynical about the institution of marriage, so they have four days to “Trojan Horse” their daughter, putting on a front of smiling support while quietly sabotaging the union. 
The ease of this mission is, of course, hampered by their inability to go more than a few seconds without sniping at each other. They argue they second-guess, re-open old wounds, and re-litigate forgotten arguments. They say things like, “Excuse me, did the middle of your sentence interrupt the beginning of mine?” They insist that they hate each other and certainly act like it most of the time. But one also gets the sense that they thrive on the friction, on the little charge they get from one-upping each other; Parker and Pipski deftly establish this pop with the introduction of Paul (Lucas Bravo), Georgia’s current beau, who is young and dashing and adores everything about her. They look great together, but they have no chemistry, and we know she and the smotheringly agreeable Paul can never work. And so does she.
David and Georgia’s interactions, on the other hand, are informed by their history and prickliness, and this is where the casting matters again – because Clooney and Roberts have a shared history, and we have one with them. It’s not all arguing; relationships like this are rarely one-note, and when they get hammered on local liquor, play beer pong, and hit the dance floor to House of Pain, they’re having as much fun letting their hair down as we’re having watching them. After all, marriages that prompt feelings this intense often begin with them as well, just in opposite directions. Both Clooney and Roberts play the genuine pathos of their relationship and the long-buried affection they retain, and they play those notes convincingly.
There’s not much else to “Ticket to Paradise,” sadly. Lourd, as an unapologetic party girl, is awfully funny (though she’s not doing anything she didn’t do in “Booksmart”), but Dever and Bouttier are attractive ciphers. The pace drags in the home stretch a bit, and the laughs dry up considerably. None of this matters much. George and Julia spark and sparkle, which is what the trailers promise, and it’s what the movie delivers. [B-]

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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