The popularity of individual genres waxes and wanes over time. Westerns were wildly popular, then they faded, and then became popular again after Unforgiven. Murder mysteries were a thing of the past until Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express and Knives Out made them seem cool again. Romantic comedies, a dominant force at the box office in the 1980s and 1990s, have been on the downswing of late. Streaming aficionados will say Netflix makes romantic comedies, but when was the last time a romantic comedy came out (in streaming or in theaters) that it felt like most people had seen, a la Pretty Woman or Notting Hill or When Harry Met Sally?
Director Ol Parker's new film, Ticket to Paradise, aims to bring the rom-com back with two old-school movie stars, George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Rom-coms are, at their heart, escapist, so it makes sense to set them in beautiful locations like Ticket to Paradise's Bali. Clooney and Roberts play two feuding divorcees who briefly make a truce when their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) tells them she is marrying a local man (Maxime Bouttier) she met while vacationing in Bali after her law school graduation.
So, just like Roberts did in My Best Friend's Wedding, her objective (and Clooney's) here is to break up a wedding. They are afraid their daughter is going to make the same mistakes they did. A lot of what follows is sitcommy (for better and for worse), but Clooney and Roberts make the one-liners zing and the two stars have good chemistry together.
A naysayer might argue that the film coasts a bit on the star power of both Clooney and Roberts, and they'd have a point, but the fact remains the two of them are stars for a reason. They make audiences like them and root for them. There's a scene late in the film where Clooney and Roberts simply beam at each other. On paper, this sounds like nothing much. But on the screen, it's affecting because they're stars and they can make an extended bit of smiling seem enchanting for a moment.
Ticket to Paradise breaks no new ground, but it is a pleasant, enjoyable piece of escapism in a genre I'd like to see return to the big screen. Based on the 2020s so far, we could all use a little more escapist fun in our lives.