Me and Ticket to Paradise have an interesting relationship, to say the least. It was the film that Kaitlyn Dever went off to film the day before I was submitting interview requests for the phenomenal limited series, Dopesick. I’ve since been anticipating the film and just awaiting the film that she just had to go film (please catch onto the sarcasm). 2022 has seen the likes of Channing Tatum, Sandra Bullock, Pete Davidson, Kaley Cuoco, Owen Wilson and J-Lo grace the screen in various rom-coms and Ticket to Paradise — starring 90s darlings George Clooney and Julia Roberts — is the latest to join the genre. Because it’s a breezy, harmless and inoffensive time at the movies, it’s important as ever to see a film like Ticket to Paradise on the big screen. And man, I just miss movies with bloopers and deleted scenes in the end credits (this film has both).
Ticket to Paradise begins with David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) Cotton describing their relationship with two different people. In short, it has been roughly 25 years since the two began dating. The kicker is, the two have been divorced for roughly 19 of those years and the one thing that keeps the two connected is their daughter Lily (Dever), who is a recent graduate and is off to vacation in Bali for a few months with her college best friend Wren (Billie Lourd) before starting her new job as a lawyer.
But as the saying goes, “What happens in Bali, stays in Bali,” at least until you get engaged to a man you’ve known for less than two months. Upon first arriving, Lily’s a bit “out of balance,” as she says. Gede reassures her, “You can find it here,” in Bali, and boy do they do that. The biggest takeaway I’ve had from Dever’s last two films, Rosaline and Ticket to Paradise, is that I need to learn how to operate a boat. She’s now fallen for two straight handsome men who have saved the day while steering a boat. Her “Romeo” this time around is a young man named Gede (Maxime Bouttier), whom she shares a “love at first sight” moment with after being abandoned at sea with Wren by their boat.
That’s where mama and papa bear come into play. The moment that they hear about this surprise engagement, they hop on the first flights to Bali in an effort to sabotage this wedding. It’s at this moment where the Meet the Parents/any rom-com where the parents see themselves in their child’s relationship plot kicks off. The parents implement a “Trojan Horse” plan, as they call it, where they begin by acting cool with the engagement before slowly becoming a parasite and destroying the relationship from the inside.
The pairing of Clooney and Roberts is nothing new, but their relationship in Ticket to Paradise feels fresh. The two may not be the new Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, though I would not complain if that were to be the case. They’re your typical “divorced parents,” but each sarcastic quip and eye-roll mean something. The radiant chemistry goes a long way in enhancing Ticket to Paradise.
I mean, just look at the beer-pong scene or the plane rides that David and Georgia embark on if you need further proof. It’s always hard to act drunk, but Clooney and Roberts sold it with their nearly-painfully eighties dance moves. One could argue that their arc is telegraphed from miles away, but it’s also fair to say that Ticket to Paradise is never trying to trick you. It’s a feel-good film, after all, and the arc of David and Georgia will do that.
I’m aware of the bias but I don’t care, Dever can do no wrong. It’s been a month of “Dever Fever,” and while her performance in Ticket to Paradise won’t be on an Oscar reel, she has a sweet rapport with her on-screen parents. Her chemistry with her on-screen romantic interest? That’s a bit of a different story. Dever and Bouttier have this fast-tracked relationship by design, but more often than not, the latter comes off as bratty. To be fair, if my future in-laws were blatantly trying to sabotage my wedding, I’d be pretty pissed too. It’s just a matter of feeling like an adult and not a child in those moments. More often than not, it’s clear that almost everyone else on-screen acts circles around the young actor. The blame doesn’t fall on Dever, who does her best to carry the load.
And while Lily is a bit different from Dever’s previous characters, she features some sprinkles of her previous character. Lily lacks the lovable dorky energy of Amy from Booksmart, but like her character in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, she shares an endearing relationship with her on-screen parents (I guess you could also include her characters in Dopesick and Dear Evan Hansen in that category as well). However, Lily would certainly take Amy out for a wild night because of her rebellious nature. We’re oftentimes told this more than we see it in action, but Lily’s a blossoming independent woman.
Speaking of Booksmart, Dever’s co-star Lourd gives another scene-stealing performance in Ticket to Paradise. No, she’s not slipping drugs into Dever’s drinks or demanding Skyler Gisondo brings her vitamins to her (though she does have a tendency to pop up in scenes) but she does find a way to make an impact in practically any frame she’s in. From the moment Lily and Gede meet, she’s (literally and figuratively) placed in the background. Do I wish there was more of her? Absolutely, but I’m also here for her becoming a special attraction in films where she gets all of the laughs in under 10 minutes of total screen time.
Much of the film appears to have been filmed in Australia, and while 90% of the film features gorgeous backdrops, there are just a few missed opportunities. For one, the film is never blocked with any sort of intrigue. Everything is relatively standard, and when the film does go for a nice shot of the young lovebirds sitting in front of a waterfall, it looks fake. Again, I have to imagine that this film was shot on location, but every angle that they showed of this waterfall looked artificial. Reshoots? Perhaps. I’m glad that the film has this beautiful setting to use, but it just feels like it could have been used to even further lengths rather than being wallpaper, which it oftentimes is. This is not detrimental to the film as a whole, but it’s worth noting.
Speaking of wallpaper, Lorne Balfe’s score once again fails to stand out. He’ll likely win an Oscar, or at least be in contention for one, for his work on Top Gun: Maverick (which is phenomenal). That said, I’ve seen Black Adam and Ticket to Paradise back-to-back, and Balfe’s work fails to stand out in both films, which is a shame. I’m sure it’s not as much of an issue with his writing but perhaps the films not requiring anything more. Regardless, it would’ve been nice to get a little more from one of the industry’s best-working composers.
But above all else, Ticket to Paradise is a warning against relationships that move too fast — take that, “ring by spring-ers” — and learning from the mistakes of your parents. Sure, Lily and her parents share parallels in their relationships, but there’s a delicate balance between learning from those mistakes and letting fear overtake you. And from the perspective of a parent, you also have to allow your child to fly from the nest. Many films have played on that dynamic — even this past year’s Best Picture winner — and Ticket to Paradise does so in a cute way.
I’ll stand by the fact that Ticket to Paradise is worth seeing in theaters and is the best rom-com of the year despite its flaws. It’s not a perfect or game-changing film in the slightest, but it takes shades of various rom-coms throughout the years and builds something new and refreshing. I’ll always root for an original film at the box office, but even more so one that’s deserving of that. And it feels like Ticket to Paradise is the type of film that grows fonder on the heart the further removed you get from viewing it. Ticket to Paradise does so tenfold and does a wonderful job of closing out the month of Kaitlyn Dever. And at this point, let’s just continue pairing Clooney and Roberts together.
Ticket to Paradise will be released in theaters on October 21.