In an industry that loves to churn out young stars and then forget about them a few years later, George Clooney and Julia Roberts have remained at the top of their game for decades through their acting prowess, versatility, and most notably, their down-to-earth charisma. Their latest project together, Ticket to Paradise (2022), capitalizes on their innate charm, along with their impeccable chemistry, to craft just under two hours of uncomplicated, feel-good escapism.
Clooney and Roberts star as a very un-amicably divorced couple, David and Georgia Cotton, who join forces as co-conspirators to break off their daughter’s rushed wedding to a man she met while on vacation. Along the way, David and Georgia rehash, reconsider, and, predictably, reverse their acrimonious breakup, all against the magical backdrop of the beaches and jungles of Bali.
The film opens with a hilarious scene that lays the groundwork for the rest of the film—in alternating clips, David, an architect, and Georgia, an art dealer, recount their relationship and subsequent breakup, revealing drastically different understandings of the events that transpired. From contrasting opinions on David’s surprise proposal (he thought it was exciting and spontaneous, she thought it was desperate and sudden) to differing explanations for the breakdown of their relationship, it becomes clear that besides their mutual regret for their marriage, the only thing David and Georgia can agree on is their love for their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever).
Therefore, when Lily calls her parents from a post-law school graduation vacation in Bali to inform them that she is abandoning her lifelong career ambitions to stay on the island with her new fiancé that she met 37 days prior, David and Georgia drop everything and immediately fly across the globe to convince their daughter not to repeat their mistakes.
While David and Georgia frequently reassure one another that they are “in lockstep” with their plan to sabotage the wedding, the duo’s constant quips and sarcastic banter suggest otherwise. Clooney and Roberts effortlessly sell the audience on their roles as snarky but loving exes and parents. In addition to the superbly-written dialogue, the actors’ decades-long friendship lends credibility to their on-screen dynamic—it feels just as natural to watch David and Georgia bicker while farming seaweed in the ocean as it does to see George and Julia affectionately tease one another during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel.
If watching George Clooney and Julia Roberts play beer pong was not on your 2022 bingo card, you are not alone. Yet somehow a scene of David and Georgia dominating Lily and her fiancé, Gede (Maxime Bouttier), at pong in a crowded bar feels so satisfying and authentic—rather than Academy Award-winning actors and international superstars, they’re just two parents reliving their glory days, complete with corny dance moves that have their daughter rolling her eyes in horror.
Beyond the protagonists’ comfortingly familiar dynamic, Ticket to Paradise’s other characters contribute to the film’s stress-free viewing experience through their incessant likability. Lily is a thoughtful, doting daughter who worries about disappointing her parents, while also approaching them with a relatable combination of admiration, amusement, impatience, and embarrassment. Her fiancé Gede could easily have been the film’s antagonist, but instead is portrayed as a smart, ambitious business owner and upbeat family man. Even Georgia’s silly, lovable young French boyfriend Paul—played by Lucas Bravo of Emily in Paris fame—adds comic relief rather than serving as a threat or impediment to Georgia and David’s inevitable reunion.
In the film’s beautiful dreamlike world, everyone looks flawless all the time. Even after spending a night outdoors in the torrential rain, Georgia wakes up without a hair out of place, leaving me to wonder if Dyson Airwraps are naturally-occurring flora in the jungles of the south Pacific. She dresses in an impressive array of jumpsuits and rompers throughout the film, while David looks dapper and laid back in crisp button down shirts with the sleeves rolled up, politician style.
Georgia’s jumpsuit-filled wardrobe is reminiscent of director Ol Parker’s ’70s-themed previous film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018). Meanwhile, the super-saturated imagery and gorgeous landscapes of Ticket to Paradise also appear to be a constant in Parker’s work. The film was shot entirely in Australia, not on location in Bali, thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the Australian Tourism Board, and some of the stunning aerial vistas truly appear straight from a travel advertisement. The tropical setting and lush imagery add to the magic and escapism that the film deftly conjures.
Ticket to Paradise’s greatest strength is how low its stakes are. The characters experience monumental moments—proposals, breakups, emergency room visits—yet there is never a doubt that everything will resolve itself perfectly by the end.
For every gut-wrenching Aftersun, nightmare-inducing Smile, and thought-provoking Till, audiences need a visually-pleasing, mentally-untaxing palate cleanse onscreen in 2022. In other words, sometimes, there’s nothing better than turning your brain off for a week at an all-inclusive beach resort, and if that sounds up your alley, it’s time to book a Ticket to Paradise.