Ticket to paradise

George Clooney and Julia Roberts in “Ticket to Paradise,” which is now playing at The Nugget. (Courtesy image)

As we head into Thanksgiving week, there are a few things to be thankful for in the cinematic realm. Mountainfilm announced that there will be a Locals Only chance to purchase passes on Dec. 1. Go in-person to the Mountainfilm office (122 South Oak St.) between 10 a.m. and noon to get yours. The first 50 film fans purchasing their 2023 pass will also receive a free piece of Mountainfilm swag.

Another piece of good news, you can pretend you’re taking a trip to Bali with your friends George and Julia. “Ticket to Paradise” starts Friday at The Nugget. Starring Julia Roberts (in a series of rather dowdy coveralls) and George Clooney (dapper as always), this romantic comedy, directed by British director and screenwriter Ol Parker (“Mamma Mia”) has more to offer than the beautiful setting.

Shot during the pandemic lockdown, the movie would’ve been enjoyable if it featured Roberts and Clooney on a long boat ride, bickering. Fortunately, though they do bicker a lot, there’s more to this tale of a divorced couple swooping in to “rescue” their daughter. It’s nice to watch a light comedy that also has a little lesson about being your most authentic self and trusting other people.

As we learn about the tragedy that destroyed this marriage, it’s also revealed how this couple became mired in their roles. The story sets up one narrative: stopping a marriage, only to reveal the real narrative, revealing the trauma that brought down the first marriage. The broken bonds and bitterness that these characters are holding onto could destroy their relationship with their daughter. They aren’t acting in her best interests, but they’re there because they can’t believe in this fairy tale.

It’s not all couple’s therapy, the film is a comedy. The scene of the young lovers first meeting is fun. The immediate spark of chemistry is evident. There are silly antics of Clooney and Roberts being overwhelmed at an awkward family gathering. There are drunken antics, alliances formed and hikes to showcase the beauty of Bali. Checking all the boxes of a basic relationship rom-com, it’s an amusing film.

What elevates “Ticket to Paradise,” beyond the star power of Roberts and Clooney, is the focus of the film’s message. The plot hides a not-so-subtle message; soured relationships color how we view the world. If we can’t trust the people we love, how do we trust that others will ever act in our best interests? Why would these bitter, bickering older parents believe that their daughter is making the right choice?

There’s a lot to laugh about in the movie. The young actors give credible performances. Our young lovers share a great chemistry. Kaitlyn Dever holds her own in scenes with both Clooney and Roberts and navigates what could’ve been a one-note character. She gives Lily an emotional depth and sensitivity. Maxime Bouttier as Gede is a great foil to Clooney. He’s the only one who knows what the parents are up to but has the kindness and confidence to wait out the drama. And Billie Lourd as the carefree, irresponsible friend Wren is both adorable and funny.

No one is going to a rom-com for life lessons and “Ticket to Paradise” is light and fun. It’s much more enjoyable to watch a film that has a little more depth, even if it’s a bit simplistic. Clooney and Roberts are good company, and the fact that they’re friends in real life translates into a believable long-term relationship on screen. Neither of them is afraid of damaging their images, and their characters act in cruel and devious ways in the film. Clooney’s dad comes across as trying too hard, and later, in his talk with his daughter’s beloved, downright cruel. Robert’s character is also manipulative and selfish. The characters do get to have a redemptive arc. Yes, there’s a Hollywood ending. It’s a romantic comedy, and would we want it any other way?

Drinks with Films rating: 2 shots of rum out of 5