Dir: Ol Parker. Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Maxime Bouttier, Billie Lourd, Lucas Bravo. 12A, 104 minutes.
It’s a joy to watch Julia Roberts and George Clooney fall in love. It is an even greater pleasure to watch them argue. As bitter exes in Entrance ticket to paradise, who are flying to Bali to prevent their daughter’s (Kaitlyn Dever) tumultuous marriage to a local seaweed farmer (Maxime Bouttier), the duo was treated to a full buffet of snappy side dishes. They are the heirs to this great screwball tradition. Think back to Claudette Colbert hitchhiking along with a flirtatious leg flash to lure Clarke Gable in It happened one night. Or Cary Grant, who is at her wit’s end in the face of Katharine Hepburn’s clumsy antics raise baby.
Here, when Georgia (Roberts) and David (Clooney) – by the way – sit next to each other at their daughter’s graduation, they tussle over armrests. When they’re booked on the plane together — again, by the way — they lock in a death grip as they ride out of a patch of rough turbulence. And when they find out their hotel rooms are next to each other – the coincidences seem a little suspicious at this point – they immediately start arguing about David’s thunderous snoring.
Entrance ticket to paradise immediately evokes the tumultuous relationship between Roberts and Clooney as the romantic leads of the Ocean’s Eleven films. Although they did accumulate quite a bit of screen time together, even in 2016 money monster, this is their first real romantic comedy as a couple. That it works is largely because their methods haven’t changed. Aside from the joke where a dolphin does a B-line for David’s crotch (he later claims it was a leg injury, but the evidence speaks for itself) and some drunken boomer dancing, there’s very little here to grudge or is silly.
So, the drawing of a Roberts/Clooney vehicle is the poker game of words played by two people who have always carried a sense of security within them. They’re the appointed adults in the room, so it doesn’t matter how fiercely they fight—they know they’re sane enough never to dig their claws deep enough to draw blood. Matters are always settled. And love will inevitably blossom.
Director Ol Parker’s task is simply to paint around the two, in bright but soothing tones. He cast the film in the same mold as The best exotic Marigold hotel (2011) and Mamma Mia! here we go again (2018). The film presents Bali as a postcard fantasy that will have eager romantics booking flights. But Parker also doesn’t forget that it’s a real place where real people live. The locals – including Bouttiers Gede and his father, Agung Pindha’s wryly humorous Wayan – hold the key to the story.
Parker’s screenplay, which he co-wrote with Daniel Pipski, is far more sentimental than humorous. It is rooted in the parents’ fear that their children are such perfect models of themselves that they will have to repeat the same mistakes. At one point, David admits he’s most vulnerable in the highs of his daughter’s life — “that’s when you get scared because you don’t want things to change.”
It’s familiar emotional territory, and Dever and Bouttier feel particularly underserved because their romance is so mild and uncomplicated, despite supposedly providing the film’s central drive. Parker seems to be somewhat aware of this, considering he took the easiest route and thrown Billie Lourd into the mix as Dever’s college bestie. She plays essentially the same scene-stealing bon vivant maniac as in 2019 book smart: hysterically funny while always having at least two day-shining cocktails glued to her hands. Emily in ParisLucas Bravo also delivers the perfect, completely mindless comic reactions as Georgia’s French Himbo pilot friend Paul.
Together, Lourd and Bravo form an important antithesis to Robert and Clooney’s elaborate shtick. Those are the right ingredients. Parker uses them in the right amounts. It’s (almost) enough to justify the film ending with a mid-jump still.
Ticket to Paradise hits theaters Tuesday, September 20th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/ticket-to-paradise-release-julia-roberts-george-clooney-b2168750.html Ticket to Paradise Movie Review: Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s first romcom together is a crazy treat