Screen legends George Clooney and Julia Roberts star in Ticket to Paradise. Credit: Universal Pictures

George Clooney and Julia Roberts combined have been nominated for film achievement awards 317 times, and they’ve won 153 times, including Oscars, Golden Globes, primetime Emmys, BAFTAs and other international honors.

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The five films on which the megastars have collaborated (Ocean’s Eleven, 2001; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, 2003; Ocean’s Twelve, 2004; Money Monster, 2017) and Ticket to Paradise) have so far grossed over $1 billion at the global box office.

This film should have been fantastic! 

Ticket to Paradise had its world premiere in Barcelona on Sept. 8. It was released in the U.K. on Sept. 20. 

The film cost about $60 million to make, which is showy for a rom-com, and risky given the modern moviegoer’s preference for the cinema-tech marvels of the day. Ticket to Paradise is a throwback to simpler times, which may account for its box office appeal.  It had secured around $55 million in international sales before it was even released in the U.S. on Oct. 20.  Clooney and Roberts are also executive producers of the film.  

So far, box office trends remain steady, with $20.6 million in domestic receipts and $81.9 million internationally. The audience rating, per Fandango, is an impressive 88%.

If not fantastic, the film is lighthearted and fun. Much of its success rests on Roberts’ and Clooney’s on- and offscreen personae. To fully enjoy this film, though, you must first suspend disbelief in the premise that David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) are divorcees who despise each other. 

If you saw or read any of the prerelease interviews, you already know Clooney and Roberts resort to their familiar bickering, a la Ocean’s Eleven. Maybe they gave a little too much away on the morning shows. Offscreen, they are close friends who are having way too much fun bickering and trying to convince us of their insane scheme to disrupt their daughter’s seemingly impulsive marriage to a beautiful Balinese seaweed harvester. They never once convince us they are enemies.  

Roberts has outstanding comedic timing. Her string of winning knockout rom-coms early in her career, including Mystic Pizza (1988), Pretty Woman (1990), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Notting Hill (1999) and Runaway Bride (1999) speaks for itself. 

The premise of the film that Clooney and Roberts despise each other is a hard sell, given their chemistry.  Their performance is reminiscent of the great comedies of the late ’30s and ’40s. When Kathrine Hepburn and Cary Grant played opposite each other, there was often a joyful “anything can happen” tone that superseded the story. They routinely sparred though bedlam and trickery toward happy endings with effortless grace.  

Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, 2019) plays their daughter Lily, and her performance is sincere and believable. Gede, the Balinese seaweed farmer, is played by Indonesian actor Maxie Bouttier. The camera loves Bouttier, and he visually steals whatever scene he is in. Lily and Gede decide to marry after knowing each other for only a month, but their relationship seems sincere and strong, playing well against the antics of Clooney and Roberts.

The film was directed and co-written by Ol Parker, known for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011). The script seems clumsy at times, and the dialogue a tad forced, not unlike his previous work. But similarly, the star power and upbeat spirit of the story draw us in. 

It’s not easy assembling a multigenerational score, but music director Rodney Berling (Batman, 2005) achieves this. In one scene, after Clooney and Roberts outlast the youngsters in a drinking game, they celebrate on the dance floor. Prepare to laugh out loud. 

The story is set in Bali, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the actual filming took place in Australia. The cinematography is rich and engaging. From the first scene to the last, Ole Bratt Birkeland (Judy, 2019) does a fantastic job, leaving viewers warm and rejuvenated after their quick trip to Paradise.

Ticket to Paradise runs 1 hour, 44 minutes, in theaters only, playing almost everywhere.  

Doris Popovich is a freelance feature writer for the Evanston Roundtable. Areas of concentration are ever-changing and include Arts, Culture, Nature, Spirituality, and Healthcare.

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  1. I love the fact that movies might actual engage me in the process of suspended disbelief. A skill I find needed in real life these days. Just thinking of watching these two makes me smile – I am grateful for the reminder to let go of my desire for them to get along before I enter the theater – Thank you Doris for again providing the means for a great experience in the seats.

  2. Wow! Good review. I love Roberts and Clooney, but I have not been overly impressed by the previews and the reviewer’s lukewarm praise has done nothing to change my mind. The again, if I am in the mood for something purely escapist, this might just be the ticket! Thanks for your thoughtful critique.