‘Ticket to Paradise’ movie review: Julia Roberts, George Clooney sabotage love in Bali

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A bitterly divorced couple teams up in Bali to break up their daughter’s unexpected wedding plans in Ticket to Paradise, which releases this week in Prague cinemas a full month ahead of its debut in the states.

The kind of perfectly inoffensive romance-comedy that Doris Day and Rock Hudson might have churned out in the 1960s, Ticket to Paradise delivers exactly what any reasonable audience will expect going in. For undemanding audiences, the exotic locations, charismatic performances, and formulaic-but-functional script make this one an easygoing and enjoyable ride.

Director Ol Parker previously made The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, and in Ticket to Paradise he trades the cast of British thespians for a pair of Hollywood stars still at the top of their game: Julia Roberts and George Clooney, who previously starred together in the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, Money Monster, and the Clooney-directed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

Roberts and Clooney play Georgia and David Collins, bitter exes who find they have to withstand each other’s company for the first time in decades during their daughter’s college graduation. When they bid adieu to daughter Lily (Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever) and her friend Wren (Billie Lourd), off on a post-grad trip to Bali, they also say goodbye to each other… this time, for good.

But a funny thing happens in the Indonesian island: in a meet-cute that begins the same way as Open Water, Lily and Wren are rescued by the handsome Gede (Maxime Bouttier). A few short scenes later, and Lily is ready to drop her law school degree to marry Gede and spend the rest of her years in paradise.

Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Georgia and David: not only are they about to lose their daughter to a foreign locale halfway around the world, but she’s also about to make the same mistake the two of them made 25 years ago. Reunited in a cold-hearted desire to break up their daughter’s wedding, they forge a temporary alliance.

We all know where Ticket to Paradise is going, but this kind of thing still has to walk a thin line: it needs enough realism for us to buy into the story, but not too much to spoil the fantasy. Director Parker manages a surprisingly effective balancing act through most of the film, right up through a note-perfect final freeze frame.

Clooney and Roberts, too, must get us to buy into their character’s relationship despite being at each other’s throats throughout most of the movie. Playing off each other with the kind of rat-a-tat insults that might have been tossed back and forth in a Howard Hawks comedy, they build up an irresistible rapport over the course of the film – and prove they’ve still got the star-power chops to lead something like Ticket to Paradise.

The supporting cast, largely made up of Gede’s extended family including father Wayan (Agung Pindha) and mother Losi (Cintya Dharmayanti), also adds to the experience. Unlike Eat Pray Love, which used the Bali backdrop as window dressing for Roberts’ romance, Ticket to Paradise digs more into the local culture, and feels far richer because of it.

Of course, the seaside locations in Bali, as captured through cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland’s lens, look gorgeous throughout, and add a lot to the experience. Ticket to Paradise may represent little more than a 105-minute tour of Bali alongside some charismatic stars and fleeting romantic fantasy, but for this film’s intended audience, that will be plenty enough.

Ticket to Paradise

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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