George Clooney and Julia Roberts Reunite for Easy, Breezy, and Beautifully Simple Romantic Comedy
DIRECTOR: OL PARKER/2022
What’s a girl to do when her divorced parents have to be in the same room at her graduation?
Lily’s best bet is lying. If she tells them they have to sit together, they won’t come, and she knows begging them to be civil is useless. It’s a good thing Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) and her BFF (Billie Lourd, continuing the great rom-com tradition of her family’s matriarchs) are flying to Bali after the ceremony, which means David (George Clooney) and Georgia (Julia Roberts) won’t have to bump into each other again for years. But what are divorced parents to do when their daughter announces she’s getting married a month later halfway across the world? David and Georgia’s best bet is lying. If they tell her she’s making a big mistake (huge!), it will only make Lily’s resolve stronger. So these bickering exes do what they vowed they’d never do again: team up, this time to break up their daughter’s wedding.
Watching Ticket to Paradise is like watching flashbacks to Hollywood history, and not just because Clooney and Roberts are reuniting on the big screen, again as exes who read blueprints and curate art for their livings. A divorced couple falling back in love is one of Hollywood’s oldest plot engines, and Clooney’s passing resemblance to Cary Grant feels more like fate than coincidence here. The Awful Truth? His Girl Friday? My Favorite Wife? The Philadelphia Story? Some of Grant’s best screwball comedies centered around his incorrigible divorcés wooing back spunky dames like Irene Dunn, Katharine Hepburn, and Rosalind Russell. In Clooney’s case, this dame was the queen of the ‘90s rom-com, an era more grounded in reality but no less fizzy with date night picks like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, and Runaway Bride. When I revisited Clooney’s lone rom-com outing of the decade, I mused about how Hollywood revisits the genre with new energy about every 30 years. Roberts has gone on record saying she’s been mostly absent for two decades because she wasn’t reading any good scripts—her return in Ticket to Paradise is more evidence the rom-com is poised for that every-three-decades comeback.
Without underselling the effort needed to make an easy, breezy, beautifully simple film like this appear effortless, Paradise has a lower threshold for success than the high-concept horror and sequel-driven universes dominating this year’s box office: With Clooney and Roberts above the title, It really just needs to not mess it up. Paradise may not be as clever as a Howard Hawks romp, but it’s just as feel-good as any of the classics above and just as worthy of Roberts’s canon as her Garry Marshall collabs. Georgia is another perfect sweet-and-salty Roberts rom-com role, and while Clooney has headlined plenty of love stories and Coen Brothers comedies, David is a fresh variation, sillier than his other romantic leads but smarter than his iconic dimwits like Ulysses Everett McGill. (For lack of a better term, we’ll just call it Big Dad Energy.)
With Clooney and Roberts given every opportunity to display their charms, who cares that the kids (Dever and fiancé Maxime Bouttier) and Georgia’s French boyfriend (Lucas Bravo) are stock characters? The supporting cast is plenty likable, and if you want a more fleshed out version of their young romance, well, you can just watch Crazy Rich Asians again since this story about traveling across the Pacific and meeting disapproving parents likely wouldn’t have been greenlit without that 2018 hit. And like Crazy Rich Asians, Ticket to Paradise is a rom-com I expect I will watch approximately 2,018 times on cable before the decade ends. The only way that won’t happen? If that Rom-Com-aissance I’m hoping for materializes so fully I won’t need to coast on a few favorites like I did through the 2010s. (Thanks to (500) Days of Summer, Home Again, and The Proposal for your years of service.) If we keep seeing charm-fests like we have in 2022 with Marry Me, The Lost City, and now Ticket to Paradise, that may just be the case.