Scene it: Wake me up when a good rom-com is released

An angry couple crosses their arms, facing away from each other.
(Ella Lehavi • The Student Life)

The trailer of “Ticket to Paradise” (2022) promised a movie about a 23-year-old making a drastic life change; in my final semester of college, this resonated with me, so I went to a drive-in theater looking for inspiration. But this hope for anything resembling added insight never made it out of the parking lot.

“Ticket to Paradise” was quite possibly the worst movie I’ve seen this calendar year. However, I cannot decide if its rom-com genre as a whole is to blame for most of its unwatchable-ness or if the movie’s screenplay writers deserve more censure.

Lead actors Julia Roberts and George Clooney are undoubtedly the big draw for “Ticket to Paradise,” and the older demographic that these stars target is reflected in the boomer humor of the film itself. The entire movie is angled towards an older audience in all the worst ways.

The plot is ostensibly concerned with Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), the daughter of Georgia and David (played by Roberts and Clooney, respectively). Having just graduated from law school, Lily travels to Bali, Indonesia, and decides to marry a man she met a mere 37 days ago. Divorced parents Georgia and David fly to Bali to intervene.

However, despite the movie supposedly revolving around her, Lily is so utterly insignificant that I just had to look up her name — the film’s gaze is wholly engrossed in the bickering between David and Georgia. The endless stream of perfectly timed and witty one-liners proved to be grating rather than endearing: I did not pay for the escapism of a movie ticket for yet more squabbling in my life. I vividly recall thinking of Roberts and Clooney’s characters when they start wrestling in a seaweed farm: “if they just had sex right now, like they wanted to, the movie would end so much faster.”

My issues with the flimsy plot have not even touched on the “West vs. the Rest” dynamic throughout. Lily’s parents are upset at her decision to marry Gede, an Indonesian seaweed farmer — honestly understandable, considering that Lily knows nothing about him and is fresh out of paying for three years of law school. David in particular comes off as a condescending, well-to-do man who thinks he knows best when it comes to his daughter, his ex-wife and his future son-in-law.

However, Gede’s family and community are portrayed as wholeheartedly welcoming these bothersome, resistant white tourists without a hint of a questioning. Gede’s community members are essentialized into the role of receptive hosts eager to accept this white family into their culture — the kind of colonialist fantasy that one would expect two white men to write.

Sure, I’m not too thrilled at the thought of Lily marrying a man she doesn’t know, but it works both ways — Gede’s parents should be warning him about marrying the most nondescript woman ever with no career plan and disapproving parents.

Frankly, I cannot remember watching a good romantic comedy that was released within the last couple of years. Although it is more than possible that I have missed some, I trust that I am not alone in seeking the comfort of older, cult-classic rom-coms to fill the void that recent titles have been unable to touch.

In fact, the second result on Google for “recent romantic comedies” calls the title “Stars Fell on Alabama” as first of “The 21 Best Romantic Comedies of 2021 (So Far).” I had the misfortune of accidentally wasting thirty minutes of my life on this absolute disaster of a film. The excruciating “Southern” portrayal of Alabama is just one part of it — “where line dancing and ‘breaking into the old school’ and racial harmony are plot points,” as one review criticized. Combined with the juvenile plot of a grown man feeling so much social shame when returning home for the holidays single that he asks an actress to be his fake girlfriend, and acting jobs with less passion for the plot than your average porn star, I walked out of the room after only half an hour.

The anonymous cast of bland, yet conventionally attractive, exclusively white characters only serves to sink the movie further into the oblivion of leaving virtually no impression, save for a vague, cringey distaste. At least “Ticket to Paradise” has Julia Roberts and George Clooney going for it — or else that movie would have no redeeming qualities.

Basically, “Ticket to Paradise” is one long, expensive build-up to a three-second shot of George Clooney taking his shirt off to jump into the ocean, with little regard for anything else, plot or otherwise. At this point, I’ll settle for a new rom-com that is either romantic or funny — it just can’t be missing both.

Rorye Jones PO ’22 gaslit herself into thinking she was part of the Roy family after she was spiritually wrecked from watching “Succession” in two weeks while in New York, and spent the rest of her time there aggressively staring down every suited pedestrian (there were a lot) in search of Matthew Macfadyen. She writes for TSL’s TV and film columns.

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