Monday, October 24, 2022


There’s a scene late in Ticket to Paradise when stars Julia Roberts and George Clooney, playing a divorced couple who have heretofore been bickering and bantering, finally stop for a quiet moment together. They’re on the top of a mountain on a tropical island and the sun is low in the sky, casting soft orange light all around them. They speak softly and openly to each other and, as their eyes start to sparkle, for the first time from beneath the needling chemistry that’s been sending sparks, we can see the real glow of affection they still have for each other. As they kindle this reconnection, I found myself thinking: I hope they kiss right now. And if that’s not a sign a romantic comedy has its hooks in you, I don’t know what is. The movie is a welcome example of a mode of moviemaking that’s all-but extinct—the glossy Hollywood rom-com—generously containing a further throwback—the comedy-of-remarriage. It finds in this comforting return to sturdy formula yet more resuscitation: a studio movie driven solely by Movie Star power. Roberts and Clooney, in particular, are at this point underutilized old pros, performers totally at ease with effortless charm. The movies these days afford them too few opportunities to appear at all, let alone uncork the full extent of their appeal. And so here we care about this couple because their actors are so good at embodying even the flimsiest formula with depth of personality, and projecting a charismatic likability in every angle and with each line reading. Because they’re pros, we can feel comfortable they can take this journey to its destination and find enough fun along the way.

Writer-director Ol Parker’s previous film was the fizzy lifting drink of a musical: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. That one, far and away his best work, and as feel-good a movie as any released in the last decade or two, must’ve unlocked something in his filmmaker toolkit. Here he continues capably marshaling the charms of stars swanning about gorgeous island locales enacting slightly silly but earnestly felt family dramas that bubble and sparkle with clever dialogue and float toward some convincing sentiment in the end. Clooney and Roberts reluctantly reunite en route to their daughter’s impromptu destination wedding. She (Kaitlyn Dever) has only known the guy for a few weeks, so the parents plan to talk her out of it. Even with just those two sentences, I’m sure you can start to piece together the plot. Yes, it has the miscommunications and mishaps and mistakes and moments of genuine connection and affection. But the joy isn’t in the story per se, thought it is sturdy, but its telling. The proceedings are kept agreeably light and amusing, photographed with brightly-lit scenic views, and build to those moments where, yes, you really do want to see the couple get together in the end. Paradise? Perhaps not exactly, but, when all the stars align, it’s in the neighborhood.

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