Though there has been a resurgence of romantic comedies thanks to Netflix and other streamers, rom-coms released solely to theaters are few and far between. Even Marry Me, the Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson-led rom-com, was released directly to Peacock in addition to receiving a theatrical release earlier this year. Starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, Ticket to Paradise is reminiscent of an era long gone. Directed by Ol Parker, who co-wrote the screenplay with Daniel Pipski, Ticket to Paradise seems too afraid to dig into the romantic aspects, but it makes up for it by being charming, sweet, and occasionally funny.
Georgia (Roberts) and David (Clooney) Cotton loathe one another. After five years of marriage, they divorced and have been living the last 25 years in relief of being away from each other. When their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), meets Gede (Maxime Bouttier) while on vacation in Bali, their decision to get married after only a month knowing each other leads Georgia and David to Bali in a bid to stop her from making a big mistake. Lily seems happy, but Georgia and David hatch a plan to sabotage the wedding. However, their time in Bali reopens old wounds and feelings that brings them to reanalyze their relationship.
Ticket to Paradise is a perfectly serviceable rom-com, leaning into certain tropes without overdoing it or lingering too long on unnecessary moments and dialogue. It has elements of Mamma Mia! and My Best Friend’s Wedding, but it’s far more diluted in execution. The humor is there, but it is aggressively toned down once Georgia and David’s bickering starts to taper off — the latter is a detriment to a film that is built around their very contentious relationship, and it’s dialed back far too soon. The film has a simple enough plot, one that doesn’t add a lot of depth to any of the characters. The story is carried by the charisma of Clooney and Roberts, who have it in spades. The actors’ charm is infectious and, even when the film could have evolved past the thin script, their banter and genuine warmth do a lot of the heavy lifting. Dever matches their energy and, though not as effusively charismatic or strong in terms of screen presence, is able to hold her own and make the most of her character’s story.
Despite solid performances and Clooney and Roberts’ chemistry, the film holds back on the romance itself. There is very little of it beyond a few longing looks and a heated kiss. Most of the buildup happens through conversation and reactions to Georgia’s relationship with Paul (Lucas Bravo), a pilot who is the exact opposite of Clooney’s David. Had Ticket to Paradise included a few more romantic scenes, it would have done wonders for the plot and the central characters’ relationship, which doesn’t get enough big moments. Perhaps Parker and Pipski were trying to avoid making the film too trope-y, but with Roberts and Clooney at the forefront, the film could have played it less safe.
Still, Ticket to Paradise is an overall enjoyable time at the movies. It helps that the rom-com has a gorgeous location as its setting — the beaches, sunsets, and intimate setting elevate an otherwise basic premise. The film is sentimental without going overboard, and it has sweet, heartfelt moments that are well-acted. Parker doesn’t hold onto any moment longer than need be, which prevents the story from becoming tedious. There are enough chuckle-worthy moments to buy into the initial hatred Georgia and David have for one another, but as their iciness thaws, it makes way for some genuine tenderness that will warm viewers’ hearts.
Ticket to Paradise released in theaters on Friday, October 21. The film is 104 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief suggestive material.