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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Ticket to Paradise, Review: Destination rom-com that loses track of both the rom and the com

Ticket to Paradise, Review: Destination rom-com that loses track of both the rom and the com

When you have actors of the calibre of Julia Roberts and George Clooney on board, you can pretty much get them to do anything. And when you ask them to deliver motor-mouth dialogue, full of love-hate content, it becomes a long spat that is occasionally funny but, at times, unfortunately, predictable. Pretty Woman Julia and Batman (1997) George have a ball, as do the co-actors, for most of the action is set in the paradise like island-group known to us as Bali, Indonesia. However, for most viewers, the visual treat remains not a ticket but a mere knock at the doors of paradise. And, incidentally, the Indian release is about two weeks before its USA release!

Ticket to Paradise is about six main characters. David and Georgia have been divorced for 15 years. Their only child, daughter Lily, has just graduated in law, and the convocation brings together her parents after many years. They bicker, but for their daughter, they lustily cheer. Immediately afterwards, Lily sets off for Bali with her bosom pal and classmate Wren, to unwind after 90 hours of exams. There she meets Gede, a local seaweed farmer, who rescues the two of them when they are left behind in the sea by the ferry boat, not being missed because they were underwater. Lily falls in love at first sight with handsome Gede. Meanwhile, Georgia is seeing Paul, a French pilot. Lily informs her parents that she is not coming back and that she intends marrying Gede.

Appalled at Lily’s decision, David and Georgia head for Bali, and find themselves on the same flight. Old wounds surface, and the nit-picking resumes. To Georgia’s utter surprise, the pilot turns out to be Paul, who has swapped his place on the roster, to spend some time with Georgia. But on one thing they have the same stand: they are not going to let Lily marry an Indonesian sea-weed farmer ‘millions of miles’ away from home. Their purpose is to break the proposed alliance, by hook or by crook. Although they are bowled over by the tantalising beauty of Balinese islands, soon, David will resort to his Trojan Horse tactics to plant doubts in the mind of Gede, while Georgia will use the sliced banana trick to steal the wedding rings, which will stall the marriage, at least for a few days.

A British American production, the film is written by Oliver ‘Ol’ Parker, the British Director of the film, and Daniel Pipski. It has a TV/theatre/animation/Disney feel, although there are some glorious exterior shots of the isles. And here is Pipski’s background, not very well-known: EP on the forthcoming limited series, Penguin, starring Colin Farrell, for HBO Max, EP on the animated series Batman: Caped Crusader, from Bruce Timm, for HBO Max, currently in production, Producer on the animated feature Selina from Swaybox, for HBO Max, currently in production. Previously wrote Parents and Children for Disney, based on an original pitch. Currently writing an original animated feature. Now, meet Ol Parker. Oh, you know him! He is the writer of the two Marigold Hotel movies, set in India and the co-writer and director of Mama Mia! Here We Go Again. If you’ve read these credits (I did not), you would expect a lot of mush, humour and various shades of love, and that is exactly what Ticket to Paradise delivers.

Divorced couple David and Georgia and confronted with an elaborate, long-lasting ritual that precedes a marriage in the Hindu rites of Bali, and the fact that even with a select invitee list, the turnout is in hundreds, because of large families and close friends. The pig-eating Hindus of Bali form the only Hindu majority town in Indonesia, where the population is almost entirely Muslim.

The screenplay uses co-incidences repeatedly, with pardonable intentions, but co-incidences are no substitute for logical progression of a script. Lily and Wren are the only two girls left behind by the boat in which they arrived. Only one boat comes to rescue them, and it is navigated by a ‘hot’ young man, with whom Lily falls in live before you can say Salaamat Datang, which id Bahasa Indonesia for Welcome. A plump cranky woman has a seat exactly between the feuding couple, on the flight to Bali. The pilot turns out to be Georgia’s lover. Only one penguin bites somebody, and that somebody has to be David. Only Paul gets bitten by a snake. In their Bali resort, David and Georgia are given rooms adjacent to each other.

Yet, paradise is not lost. There is palpable warmth. Georgia acknowledges that they their separation was her fault. Wren’s devotion to Lily is what true friendship is all about. There are quite a few one-liners and repartees that evince genuine laughs. Like when David says that Bali is no match for Hawaii, because Hawaii is in the USA, only to be overawed by its charms hours later. Marriage ritual portion is extended beyond endurance, and no real drama takes place in the last 30 minutes of the film, except the entirely predictable ending.

George Clooney, at 61, plays a man a little younger, but there is no apparent effort to use cosmetic support. Both he and Julia Roberts (54) have a lot of laugh lines and wrinkles around the forehead and eyes, and the amount of face-making they are made to do is no joke. All this is in character. They both razzle and dazzle, and put so much pep and zing in their performances that one might be tempted to recommend the film merely on this count. Although the scenes must have been rehearsed over and over again, their comic timing is flawless. Perhaps this is the result of working in four films together, before this one. American actress Kaitlyn Dever (Them That Follow, Booksmart, Dear Evan Hansen) plays Lily, absolutely comfortable with her sexuality. She is 25, the age she is supposed to be in the film. A hint of Alia Bhatt, the Hindustani film-star, is discernible. Not much contribution comes from the script, but she makes the most of it.

Billy Lourd (Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix in three Star Wars films) gets to emote and provide moral support to Lily in her decision to rush into marriage with and Indonesian. More was expected of her character, which came across as half-baked. As Gede, Maxime Bouttier (Indonesian actor, director, and musician, Maxime is the elder of two children, from Patrice Bouttier, a chef from France, and Siti Purwanti, an Indonesian. I guessed as much. He started his career as a model in Bali) looks the part but has a long way to go on the acting route. Playing Paul, Lucas Bravo is French, and you would not help notice that. This is his first film, although technically, it could be Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

A field-day for cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland, Bali provides so much of colour and natural light. His underwater sequences were also well shot. Editing by Peter Lambert is mainly dialogue oriented and the Clooney-Roberts volleys are well-matched. The movie meanders in the second half, which is something the editor can hardly be blamed for. Music by Lorne Balfe is unobtrusive, and good use is made of the song ‘And that’s the way it is’.

George and Georgia (haven’t you noticed what Julia is called in the film?) perform the antics that they are asked to, sometimes giving the impression that they are on a picnic, with all the clooning…clowning, crisp as it might be. Ticket to Paradise (not to be confused with the 1936 film of the same name, which had a different plot) is the kind of film you must watch when someone else buys your ticket. Otherwise, you wouldn’t miss much if you gave it a miss. It’s a destination rom-com that loses track of both the rom and the com.

Hearing all those dialogue in Bahasa Indonesia (some are sub-titled, others are interpreted, still others are condensed) made me nostalgic. Although I have visited Bali twice, Ole Bratt Birkeland’s picture-postcard images remind me that I can never have enough of it. Ticket to Bali? Anytime. Ticket to Paradise? Maybe yes, maybe no!

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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