A new rom-com? Starring Hollywood legends Julia Roberts and George Clooney? Yes, indeed.
In recent years, America has been deprived of new classics akin to 10 Things I Hate About You, Sleepless in Seattle and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Chalk it up to unoriginality or the cynicism of Gen Z, but it’s been a trying time for us hopeless romantics – rewatching Adam Sandler movies with Jennifer Aniston or Drew Barrymore can only go so far (though they are masterpieces in their own right).
Ticket to Paradise quite literally brings moviegoers on an adventure filled with picturesque Balinese views and the classic “old and new love” trope. The movie follows a divorced couple, Georgia Cotton (Roberts) and David Cotton (Clooney), who begrudgingly reunite for their daughter Lily’s law school graduation at the beginning of the movie. They hate each other, and Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) is the middle man, constantly playing the role of parent to her own parents. When David asks where he will be sitting at the graduation in relation to his ex-wife, Lily assures her father the auditorium is “the size of Rhode Island” – to which he responds, “That’s the smallest state.” So, yeah, they really hate each other.
The bulk of the movie takes place after the ceremony when Georgia and David see Lily off to the airport as she embarks on a relaxation trip to Bali with her quirky friend Wren (Billie Lourd). The parents vow not to see each other for a long time. But alas, they are reunited sooner than expected when they learn their daughter has met someone in Bali and is getting married.
Lily’s fiance Gede (Maxime Bouttier) is a gorgeous seaweed farmer and the answer to Lily’s plan to break from the course of her boring life. That’s where her parents come in. Despite intentionally isolating themselves from one another for years, they join forces to disrupt the wedding, scheming all the while. Georgia’s overly-clingy boyfriend Paul (Lucas Bravo) is there to throw a wrench in their plans, too.
Still, the thrust of the movie is that love can be rediscovered, even after a lot of time apart and a lot of unpacked resentment. And Georgia and David do find love in each other again, with Paul comically left by the wayside.
Despite its “aww”-inducing moments, some of the humor falls flat, including Georgia and David’s banter, which at times felt like beating a dead horse. In fact, many of the film’s laughs come from secondary characters like Wren and Paul, who inject life into a somewhat stale plot.
Kaitlyn Dever, who pop culture enthusiasts may know as Amy from Booksmart or Eve Baxter from the sitcom Last Man Standing, is also disappointingly underused as Lily and the scenes in which she appears feel underdeveloped. Take the first time she meets Gede, for example. They make googly eyes at each other on a boat and then, what feels like two seconds later, are engaged to be married. No matter how unrealistic the meet-cute, rom-coms generally provide some sort of explanation for how a relationship can progress so fast, and I couldn’t seem to find one here.
One of the best moments of the movie was Georgia and David’s 90s music dance party, where they slam drinks and dance unabashedly to “Jump Around” by House of Pain. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of those loosey-goosey moments that make you forget the actors’ celebrity status and allow you to see them at more than face value.
Ticket to Paradise calls into question the idea of using star-studded celebrities to drive movie sales. As a movie consumer, I’ll personally see anything starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, but in the context of today’s world, a romantic comedy starring the two of them is the easy way out, a business strategy that many people can see right through.
When will simply repeating history fail to prove the merits of the rom-com as time goes on? I don’t say this because Roberts and Clooney are getting older or because they’ve already had their time in the spotlight; they are both wonderful actors and they look really good on screen. There’s a difference, though, between a movie featuring household names and a movie that relies on big Hollywood talent: starring A-list celebrities does not mean the writers can lounge around with storytelling. Perhaps production companies should also be uplifting unnoticed actors to reignite the flames of a popular genre that is certainly experiencing a blip.
Despite the movie’s flaws, I was happy to indulge in the idea of two souls meeting once again on a tropical island. It’s not a groundbreaking story, but it does a good job of helping you forget about your troubles, if only for just under two hours. That said, I’ll still be waiting with bated breath for a grand rom-com revival.
Thumbnail graphic by Olivia Aloi.