Even when surface-level writing fails to dig up the emotional poignancy of the second chance trope, seasoned romantic comedy darlings George Clooney and Julia Roberts make Ticket to Paradise an absolute joy ride. Directed by Ol Parker, the film was brimming with potential but lost itself while focusing too laboriously on the bickering divorcees trope instead of showcasing two forms of romance thoroughly. Still, as the return of romantic comedies continues, it’s a film worth watching even when it flounders to find its footing.
The second chance romance trope is one of the more emotional ones, allowing couples to find what they’ve tucked away into something everlasting. And while there are various forms of it, such as “the one that got away” in Letters To Juliet or Mamma Mia, the trope generally relies heavily on cementing why a couple should be together against all odds. That said, in the hands of lesser-skilled actors, Ticket to Paradise would undoubtedly (and unfortunately) flop. The script seldom allows the audience to understand why we’re supposed to root for Georgia (Roberts) and David (Clooney), only that they’re our leads, and it’s what we know what we’re supposed to see through the genre.
The premise sees Georgia and David reuniting to stop their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Danvers) from marrying a man, Gede (Maxime Bouttier), whom she barely knows in Bali. Despite their meddling, the new couple makes it to the end, leaving her parents to hastily decide to stay in Bali because life is too short. The markings for a solid second-chance romance are all there. Clooney’s David plants seeds about a beloved lake house, but the film relies too heavily on telling us about their past and how much they hate each other, as opposed to showing us what’s necessary to see the sparks.
In a film like Ticket to Paradise, it shouldn’t be challenging to show the audience what we’re meant to root for. Clooney and Roberts do an excellent job of showcasing how much fun the former couple can have together, but the script fails to dig deeper into their pasts. There’s no apology, no real promise of something more, and even in a quiet moment where the lake house conversation leads to a kiss, they’re then interrupted with no return to that difficult place where their challenges require overcoming.
This detail is often the blunder with intermingling any form of enemies (rivals) to lovers in the bag with another trope because writers tend to focus more on the bickering banter than the emotional beats necessary to make the relationship believable. And again, this isn’t to say that the film isn’t plenty of fun throughout, but at best, the writing propels very little forward, relying on beloved actors to carry the entire film on their shoulders.
Because sadly, Georgia and David’s relationship isn’t the only one that needs work, but Lily and Gede’s too. We watch them meet, exchange a meaningful conversation, and then, they’re engaged. While the instant love trope is also somewhat ubiquitous in a romance, at the very least, great romances give us some modicum of understanding as to why the couple is drawn to one another.
Both couples and familial relationships are at the film’s center, but a wall stops the narrative from reaching the heart that sticks to a memorable landing. The romance isn’t weaved into platonic relationships as well as it could be, and we gloss over critical beats by not allowing the couples to be vulnerable more. There’s not much that can be done with the inclusion of vulnerability in a romantic comedy that focuses more on humor, but solid storytelling threads it seamlessly throughout the story.
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Billie Lourd is also criminally underused throughout the film, but a single moment with Clooney’s David brings more vulnerability from the character than we get throughout the film. Still, there’s no denying that the cast and crew had a blast filming Ticket to Paradise, which makes it a great watch, regardless. Although, it really should have been released in the summer instead.