“Ticket to Paradise” Reviewed: Let these figurines riff and dance!

The recent sharp decline in willingness to date someone across party lines isn’t the reason the romantic comedy is nearly dead, but it does point to the problem. The rom-com genre is inherently plot-driven, while few viewers doubt more than romance itself is anything but character-driven. Romantic comedies are mechanics designed around characters with exactly the traits that seem to be obstacles to their romance; the machinery of the plot determines whether they will fall in love despite these traits or because of them. Today, the tight-format genre produces the stories that know too little: few viewers are likely to overlook the mesh of details, the shared passions and life goals, the mutual discoveries, the connections of experiences and the visions of the world, perspectives and ambitions, on which lasting relationships are created. Few are fooled by the spark of love at first sight, the fire of attraction, not because such instantaneous but powerful bonds are false or unreliable, but on the contrary because they can mean immediate recognition. of a vast spectrum of hidden connections and affinities. which will fuel the flames over time.

It’s a long way of saying that the stick figures set in motion in romantic comedies derive their simulation of amplitude from the power of the stars. The lead actors must convey a volume of personality and a weight of experience that the scripted characters do not have. “Ticket to Paradise,” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts (such is their billing), depends on that power to fill a simple frame of a story. He offers them too little to work with, too little guidance, too much blank space to fill. The couple they embody is charged with a personal story that the film never develops, never even reveals; their action focuses on a second couple – one involving their daughter – who get even less character development. Inasmuch as the film’s charm depends on that of its two stars, they are so rigidly constrained to the artifices of the plot that they have virtually no wiggle room, virtually no chance of simply being watched, and are extracted live advertising. pictures of themselves.

Georgia Cotton (Roberts), a high profile gallerist, and David Cotton (Clooney), a major project architect, were married for five years, divorced two decades ago and have lived apart ever since, in unquenchable acrimony and a mutual recrimination. . They couldn’t avoid each other because they have a daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), who, to kick off the action, is a law school graduate. (Even the former couple’s presence at the ceremony leads to a public bout of competitive squabbling.) With work ahead of her, Lily heads to a tropical resort in Bali for a vacation with her best friend, Wren ( Billie Lourd). There, in a moment of panic during a swim in the open sea, Lily meets cute Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a young man from the island who works as a seaweed farmer, and it’s the coup de lightning. Lily and Gede plan to get married soon; they will live in Bali, and Lily will give up her job as a lawyer (indeed, she seems ready to give up her legal career). When Lily tells her parents about this plan, they spring into action, flying to Bali ostensibly to attend the wedding, but in fact to enact a wacky plan to prevent it – separating the young couple and bringing Lily back. home, work and the life she would otherwise leave behind.

Even before the plot gears kick in, David and Georgia’s feuds are both obvious and fragile. On the one hand, backbiting is so easy-going and intimate that it looks like the banter of a longtime couple from the start rather than the bile of a broken couple; yet, on the other hand, nothing in the film suggests why their breakup was so bitter, why the venom remains. The void of their common hatred is in one piece with the masked generality of the characters themselves. The two worldly protagonists have nothing to say to each other, neither to others, nor even to friends by SMS or e-mail. The film, written by Ol Parker (who also directed) and Daniel Pipski, reduces them to mere symbols of middle-aged, mid-career achievement, with nothing, let alone experience or sensibility, to show, except for another great tacit: money.

In the Hollywood of long ago that exploded around the time of the Cottons’ marriage, in which character types trumped character, money might not have been a topic. In “Ticket to Paradise”, the wealth of the protagonists raises questions that the film never confronts, even if it is the very basis of the plot. Not only do Georgia and David give up everything for their trip, which they stuff with unquestioned comfort and luxury, but they seem to have passed on that level of economic freedom – and the playful confidence that goes with it – to Lily herself. . So it seems no one knows, as Lily and Gede are also obscured by the film’s sketchy script. They’re the most interesting couple, and their apparent differences suggest an even more dramatic mesh of personalities, traits, and experiences. The depiction of the young couple’s immediate bond is done in the blink of an eye, with a cliched snap of Lily beaming and breathless, and leaves them with almost nothing defined except – in a revealing touch that suggests this non-white ‘exotic’ and ostensible is really like “us” – for Gede explaining that he and his father, also a seaweed farmer, have a contract with Whole Foods. The essence of the plot is the instrumentalization of Lily by the elder Cottons and the dismissal of Gede – the parents treating the young couple as objects of their own designs, instruments of their own will. Rather than counteracting this cavalier self-centeredness by developing Gede and Lily in great detail, the film reproduces and reinforces it.

Parker’s scope as director is as narrow and cramped as the screenplay. The chemistry between Roberts and Clooney is superficial, sweet and lovable, and the stars never let go. The one notable scene of flashy, invigorating physical action – it’s a dance to accompany a game of beer pong – is filmed so confined and tightly edited that it looks like a thirty-second Viagra commercial. Even the natural glories of the island appear on a green background. Only Gede’s father, Wayan (Agung Pindha), has a real sense of humor; the only touch of charm is a moment when Gede shows he’s inherited it.

The obvious innovation in Judd Apatow’s rom-coms is to let actors full of fun characters go wild with their humor. But the underlying innovation is perhaps most important: the structuring of his films on the missing, but implicit, hype and fleshing out of relationships through emotionally murderous conversations. His classics involve what I call the Time Cassavetes (yet there is also something Bergmanic about it) – the implicit power of the complexity of its characters, which is largely only hinted at, but decisively so. (“Ticket to Paradise” doesn’t even involve a Cassavetes minute.) The latter-day romantic comedy that puts such scenes into action, Noah Baumbach”Greenberg,” candidly looks at the dramatic implications of romance based more on character than on situations. In “Ticket to Paradise,” Parker sticks to antiquated rom-com archetypes; in the process, it neglects and obliterates the two couples that engage at the center of the action. It omits the substance, the human factor, that would bring its stripped-down yet solid frame to life. ♦

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