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‘Ticket to Paradise’ Review: The Big Studio Rom-Com Returns, Care of Roberts and Clooney

It’s been over 20 long, sad years since Julia Roberts last starred in a romantic comedy — and it often feels like it’s been almost as long since anybody has made a good one. Something so easy to enjoy is so hard to get right — like, you could argue, all the most precious relationships in this sorry world — and what a miracle for a modern pioneer of the genre to still have the grace to resurrect it with “Ticket to Paradise.”

That’s not to say all hope is lost without Roberts, but it’s so hard these days to be optimistic about pure, sugary, original, earnest escapism. Roberts sells it. In a digital age defined by broken brains having spent too much time on the internet tearing down anything that tries to be nice, romance is almost always undercut by some kind of self-awareness or cynicism to prove you couldn’t possibly be so naive as to buy this really sweet thing — or, God forbid, it swings too far the other way and you’re trudging through treacle for days.

The only person beyond Roberts who could be trusted to make a good, true, brave romantic comedy the way they used to make ‘em is the one man who has, in cinematic terms, really moved mountains. This man, of course, is Ol Parker.

Plenty of people have argued that romantic comedies hinge entirely on the chemistry of their central couples, and “Ticket to Paradise” is certainly blessed with that kind of pair, as Roberts plays high-flying art expert Georgia, alongside the actress’ longtime friend and co-star George Clooney as her ex-husband, the stubbornly enigmatic David

(It’s a bit of a joke at this point to say that Roberts and Clooney are still some of the best actors of their generation, but it’s just nice to confirm that it’s true in a way that really can only be understood by that strange alchemic feeling that suddenly comes over your tear-ducts, against all odds.)

But such blinding star power is often wielded misguidedly, feeding into winking nostalgia and self-referential ego stroking as a triumph in itself, opposed to letting these fine actors simply do the work that got them to this point. And Parker, as the filmmaker’s magnum opus “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” proved, is the one of the few working filmmakers today capable of doing that.

Meryl Streep notoriously said throughout her entire career that she would never do a sequel, and yet Parker convinced her to return to the ABBA valentine franchise as a ghost version of her character, the magnanimous Donna Sheridan, from the first film.

That sequel is one of the most outlandish, sincere, strange, and entertaining romantic comedies since, well, probably something like “My Best Friend’s Wedding” was. It is an original piece of writing only using a handful of ABBA lyrics to create a far-fetched, yet completely magnetic story of motherhood and romance on an exotic island where anything feels possible and no dance move is too embarrassing.

Like that film, “Ticket to Paradise,” miraculously, has it all. It could never have been made by anybody else.

The film sees Georgia and David begrudgingly travel halfway across the world together to stop their beloved daughter Lily (the always impressive yet understated Kaitlyn Dever), who is hopelessly in love with Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a young seaweed farmer she just met in Bali, from making the same mistake they think they did when they got married 25 years prior.

It’s about taking care of those you love, learning to forgive yourself, and embracing the completely terrifying notion of letting yourself be happy for a minute, even if there’s no guarantee of how long it’ll last.

Much of the charm of “Ticket to Paradise” comes from knowing exactly how this story will end — what would a good romantic comedy be without a guaranteed happy ending? — without being totally certain of the journey to get there, because of the originality in the script.

Not so much in the quippy improvised dialogue (which Clooney almost definitely prides himself on basically having invented) or loveably familiar jokes (although there have been countless drunken dancing scenes destined to ridicule anybody over the age of 30, it’s still so annoyingly funny when these guys do it), but in all the careful detail that comes from letting such a talented group of storytellers bring their own romantic wisdom and faith to another fictional template.

It’s the way Parker knows exactly when to give Roberts and Clooney their own individual, long close-ups without needing fanfare or irony, or too many set-pieces to remind you that this is money being well spent.

It’s when Roberts’ immaculately tailored wardrobe has been given so much care to draw a smart, sharp woman with two decades of regret and guilt and self-preservation that it can all be understood in the way a denim jumpsuit is cut across her shoulders. It’s the fact that there is just one line in this film about age, as “Ticket to Paradise” is much more interested in the unique pleasures of the here and now, rather than dwelling on what could have been or what once was.

Although the golden age of the romantic comedy might be behind us, the single greatest joy of “Ticket to Paradise” comes from the unwavering belief that a happy future still is possible. Some of it might sound trite in a month, a year, a decade, but that trust in fleeting happiness as something worth jumping into seaweed-heavy waters for is a breath of fresh air.

It tells overachieving students and desperately impressive daughters like Lily that their lives won’t end if their careers do. It tells embittered divorcés like Georgia and David that even after everything has burnt down, you can always re-build.

It tells a tired, sad audience that the overdone notion of the “feel-good” movie isn’t dead after all — that there really is a pretty great ticket out of here, and right now.

Surprising Facts About Julia Roberts, America’s Sweetheart

It’s hard to believe, but Julia Roberts has been a fixture in Hollywood for three decades now. From her breakout performance in Pretty Woman to her Oscar-winning turn in Erin Brockovich, there’s no denying her talent, but “America’s Sweetheart” has a dark side too. From her tumultuous personal life to her tragic family history, this is the true story of Julia Roberts.

Grade: B+

Universal Pictures will release “Ticket to Paradise” in theaters on Friday, October 21.

1. She Has A Wild Birth Story

Julia Roberts took her first breaths on October 28, 1967. Born in the city of Smyrna, Georgia, performing was always in her blood. Her father ran a local acting school, where he taught the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, as a thank you for instructing the girl, Mrs. King actually covered the hospital bill for little Julia’s birth. It was an A-List start, but her childhood wouldn’t be glamorous for long.

Julia Roberts Facts

2. She Didn’t Have An Easy Childhood

Despite her parents’ shared love of the performing arts, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts divorced when Julia was just four years old. And from there, hoo boy, her childhood just got worse. Not even a year later, Roberts’s mother Betty remarried with a man named Michael Motes—and he was bad news. According to Roberts’s brother Eric, the siblings’ new stepfather was “abusive.”

Julia Roberts Facts

3. She Hated Her Stepdad

Roberts has said that she hated her new stepdad. Luckily for her, he didn’t stay in the picture for too long. Shortly after giving  birth to a daughter, Julia’s mother Betty Lou filed to divorce her second husband, citing cruelty as the reason for the split. All of this happened before Julia even graduated from high school. Yeesh.

King Louis XI Of France Facts

4. She Lost A Loved One

On top of all this, when Julia was only ten years old, her biological father passed of throat cancer.

Julia Roberts Facts

5. She Moved To The Big City

Thankfully, during her teenage years, the sailing got a little smoother for Julia. Showing her brainy side, she played the clarinet in the band and wanted to become a veterinarian. But all that got put on hold after she graduated from her small Georgia high school. In 1985, Roberts moved to New York City, signed with a modelling agency, and started taking acting classes.

As Roberts made her first steps to stardom, scandal was hot on her heels.

julia roberts facts

7. She Dated A Heartthrob

Roberts landed minor TV roles before starring in the movie Satisfaction with Irish heartthrob Liam Neeson. In one of Hollywood’s best “wait, they dated?!” stories, Neeson and Roberts quickly struck up an intense romance. There was just one problem: Neeson was 35 and Roberts was just 19 years old. Despite the enormous age gap, the new couple moved in together at a breakneck speed—before fizzling out after a year.

Looking back, this was the first of Roberts’s many, many dramatic relationships.

julia roberts facts

Getty Images

8. She Became A Star

During her whirlwind romance with the dad from Taken, Julia Roberts also found time to star in her breakout role. In 1988, she struck gold with the hit coming-of-age film Mystic Pizza. Upon release, she became a star overnight. Really—Roberts claimed she knew the exact moment she became famous. And it’s…a lot stranger than you’d think.

Julia Roberts Facts

9. She Had A Weird Fan

According to Roberts, she realized she was famous in a very classy place: a public bathroom. Roberts was in a stall when a girl asked if she’d been in Mystic Pizza. Confused, Roberts replied that she had, only for the girl to ask for her autograph and slide a napkin under the stall door. Roberts understandably asked her to wait until she was done in the restroom.

Julia Roberts Facts

10. Her Next Movie Was A Nightmare

After breaking out in Mystic Pizza, Roberts nabbed another high-profile role in the classic sobfest Steel Magnolias. This movie is notoriously sad, but behind the scenes, production was just plain insane. According to Shirley MacLaine, the movie’s director was horrible to everyone, but he “went after Julia with a vengeance” even though it was one of her first big movies.

What did Ross do that was so mean? Oh, get ready.

Julia Roberts Facts

11. The Director Hated Her

Ross criticized all his stars, even telling seasoned actresses that they couldn’t perform. But everyone agreed that he was hardest on Roberts. He didn’t just insult her acting—he went after her appearance too. Sally Field said that he hated Roberts’s beauty marks and tell her to cut off her “warts” and “moles.” Unsurprisingly, Roberts just cried after finishing a long day on set.

Julia Roberts Facts

12. She Fell For Her Co-Star

But Steel Magnolias wasn’t all bad. While filming the movie, Roberts swapped Liam Neeson for a hot young actor named Dylan McDermott. He played her fiancé in the film, and clearly their chemistry moved off screen too. The couple were so in love that McDermott asked Roberts to marry him. She said yes—but their engagement wouldn’t last long…

Julia Roberts Facts

13. She Became A Leading Lady

Mystic Pizza and Steel Magnolias were great roles—but the performance that really put Roberts on the map was Vivian, the call girl with a heart of gold, in Pretty Woman. The movie came out in 1990 and immediately catapulted Roberts onto the A List. At just 22 years old, she was now a bonafide star and an Oscar nominee. But behind the scenes, things weren’t so rosy.

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14. She Dumped Her Fiancé

Strap in, reader, because this is where we dive into the rollercoaster of Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland’s relationship. While on the set of Roberts’s next movie, the supernatural thriller Flatliners, Roberts performed another romantic swap. She returned her engagement ring to Dylan McDermott and promptly began dating her co-star, Kiefer Sutherland. But Sutherland came with, shall we say, baggage. A lot of it.

Julia Roberts Facts

15. She Fell For ANOTHER Co-Star

Kiefer Sutherland, ahem, wasn’t exactly available when he got together with Roberts. In fact, he was already married to another woman—and not only that, he had a young child too. Even so, young love barrels ahead. Roberts separated from his wife and began seeing his new girlfriend. Roberts was thrilled with her new boyfriend. Well, for the time being.

Julia Roberts Facts

16. Her Boyfriend Had Problems

Sutherland and Roberts’s lovey dovey phase didn’t last long. Sutherland, who’d struggled with alcohol issues in the past, started hitting the bottle hard and soon decided to match his surroundings to his boozy habit. He moved out of Roberts’s glam mansion and into a grimy hotel. Sutherland claimed that he did all this to prepare for a role—but that wasn’t the whole story.

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17. There Was Another Woman

Apparently, Sutherland’s “role” didn’t just involve a dicey hotel and booze. It also required him to spend a lot of time with an “enormously buxom” dancer named Raven. Yeah, this was not a good look for a man with a girlfriend. Even so, Sutherland and Roberts patched things up and moved back in together. However, Raven wasn’t out of the picture just yet.

Julia Roberts Facts

18. The Tabloids Were All Over It

Raven pulled a classic Hollywood mistress move: she sold her story to the press. In a spicy interview, she claimed that Sutherland used to complain about Roberts and specifically, about her cold and condescending personality. After the tabloid hit the news stands, Sutherland’s people immediately denied that he’d been more than friends with Raven. Meanwhile, Roberts did something much more chilling.

Julia Roberts Facts

19. She Was Incredibly Ill

As a sign of how much Sutherland’s betrayal may have hurt her, Roberts has never addressed this time in her life. However, we do know this: shortly after the tabloid came out, Roberts claimed to have caught the flu. She checked herself into a local hospital and rested for five long days. Was she physically sick, or just emotionally drained? Either way, no one saw her next move coming.

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20. She Stunned Everyone

As Roberts left the hospital, she waved to the crowd of photographers that had assembled outside the doors. Immediately they spotted it: A gigantic sparkler on her ring finger. Soon, Roberts gleefully confirmed that she and Sutherland had (evidently) patched things up—so much so that the rollercoaster couple was now engaged.

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21. The Big Day Was A Big Mess

Once they were back on, Sutherland and Roberts moved fast. They set their wedding date for just four short weeks after Sutherland popped the question—and they did not do anything by halves. The extravaganza wedding involved 150 guests, an $8,000 custom made gown for Roberts, and, as the big day approached, a truly insane amount of drama.

Just three days before the wedding, Roberts called the entire ceremony off.

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22. She Was A Real-Life Runaway Bride

Roberts didn’t just run away from her problems. She flew from them. After telling Sutherland she couldn’t go through with the ceremony, she boarded a plane to Ireland—and she wasn’t alone. Roberts escaped from LA with her new beau: the young actor Jason Patric who was also, in a very awkward twist, Sutherland’s good friend. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Julia Roberts Facts

23. She Spoke Up

Roberts wasn’t just making headlines for her tumultuous love life. She was also hard at work on her acting career. Around this time, she filmed the movie Sleeping With The Enemy in South Carolina. After production wrapped for the day, Roberts and a Black friend went to grab dinner at a restaurant—only for the staff to turn away her friend due to his race. Roberts gave an emotional interview where she called out the town’s discriminatory behavior—but her words backfired. 

Instead of siding with Roberts, the public demanded that she apologize to the restaurant. And her next movie-making experience was even more dramatic.

Julia Roberts Facts

24. She Wasn’t Always Easy To Work With

Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie Hook transported children to a magical fantasy world. Unfortunately, actually making the movie seemed to transport the cast and crew into the inner circle of hell—and according to multiple reports, one person was to blame: Julia Roberts. Veering from sadness to hyperactivity, Roberts was such a terror that the crew nicknamed her “Tinkerhell.”

Julia Roberts Facts

25. A Major Director Shaded Her

In an interview about making Hook, the director Steven Spielberg threw some subtle shade at his leading lady. He revealed that she would refuse to come out of her trailer for hours and even implied that he wouldn’t work with her again. The tea-spilling interview was already going to make news—but when Roberts publicly struck back at Spielberg, the scandal reached a whole ‘nother level.

Roberts, Spielberg, Williams Watch Dailies on 'Hook' Set, 1991.

26. She Struck Back

After Roberts saw Spielberg dissing her on TV, she spoke her mind to a high-profile magazine. She insisted that Spielberg was lying through his teeth and claimed that his remarks made her eyes “pop out of [her] head.” According to Roberts, she wasn’t the problem; he was. In her words, Spielberg was a “turncoat.” Evidently, these two never patched things up. After Hook, they never worked together again.

Julia Roberts Facts

27. Her Love Life Was Dramatic

By 1992, Roberts was becoming known as a bit of a maneater. To uphold her new reputation, she ended her relationship with Jason Patric and did a complete 180. Instead of dating another Hollywood star, she fell for the pompadoured country singer, Lyle Lovett, and took “whirlwind romance” to the next level. They only dated for three weeks before getting married.

Shocker: These two wouldn’t last long.

Julia Roberts Facts

28. She Rushed Into A Wedding

According to Lovett, he and Roberts hadn’t spent a straight week together before they got hitched. Even faster, after getting engaged, they waited just three days to exchange rings! It was definitely a whirlwind romance—and it fizzled out just as quickly as it ignited. Before their marriage turned two years old, Lovett and Roberts announced that they were divorcing. They insisted it was amicable, but the tabloids suggested otherwise…

Outrageous Reasons for Divorce facts

29. She Was Caught With Another Man

In the weeks leading up to Lovett and Roberts’s divorce, paparazzi snapped pictures of Roberts dancing with her usual type of guy: the up and coming Hollywood heartthrob, Ethan Hawke. After the pictures came out and a Rolling Stone reporter asked her about the photographs, Roberts snapped, “I danced. Is that a felony?” The reporter wisely changed the subject after that.

Julia Roberts Facts

30. She Went To Court

In 1993, Roberts switched things up. Before, she’d mostly made headlines for her movies and her relationships. Now, she added messed up family dynamics to the list. Roberts’s brother Eric had recently split up with his wife Kelly Cunningham, leading the exes to battle for custody of their infant daughter. You’d think that Roberts would side with her big bro—but you’d be wrong. She actually paid for his ex’s lawyers, making her low opinion of her brother crystal clear.

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31. She Feuded With A Star

Everyone’s gotta have a Hollywood feud. Roberts’ is with Nick Nolte. The two starred together in the 1994 film I Love Trouble and seemed determined to live up to the title of their movie. The actors clashed on set, with Nolte saying Roberts was “not a nice person” and Roberts once calling Nolte “completely disgusting” in an interview. From there, it just got worse.

Julia Roberts Facts

32. She Hated Her Leading Man

According to rumors, Roberts exhibited some youthful diva behavior on set, but Nolte did nothing to help matters. He would irritate her as much as possible, derailing the production even further. As a sign of how much they hated each other, the actors insisted on performing alongside stand-ins, instead of having to look at each other. Yiiikes.

Julia Roberts Facts

33. She Gave Back

Justice for Julia—amid all her feuds and break-ups, she also used her fame and fortune to give back. For years, Roberts has donated her time and resources to UNICEF, even traveling to Port-au-Prince with the organization in 1995. She also narrated a documentary about Rett syndrome to raise awareness about the neuro-developmental disorder.

34. She Had A Friend With Benefits

Did you know that Julia Roberts had a relationship with Friends star Matthew Perry? Me neither. She started dating Chandler Bing after guest-starring on the show, only for the romance to end a year later. By now, you’ve probably noticed that Roberts has a thing for her co-stars, but on her next project, nothing could be further from the truth. Sparks flew—but in all the wrong ways.

Julia Roberts Facts

35. She Was A Bit Of A Diva

While working on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde remake, Mary Reilly, Roberts was…not the easiest person to accommodate. The movie filmed in London and instead of enjoying Old Blighty, Roberts demanded that she have a jet plane available at all times, just in case she decided to visit her home in L.A. The cost of this perk? Over $120,000.

Oh, and she allegedly feuded with her co-star John Malkovich, and the movie was a flop. Bet the studio regretted spending all that money on that jet…

Julia Roberts Facts

36. She Fell For A New Man

In 1998, Julia Roberts met Benjamin Bratt and fell head over heels for the handsome actor (you probably know him as the hot FBI agent in Miss Congeniality). As Roberts herself cooed in a 2000 interview, Bratt “is all a girl could ever ask for.” Um, considering what happened next, I’d say Roberts spoke a little too soon.

julia roberts facts

37. Her Co-Star Didn’t Love Her

If you ever want some Hollywood gossip, just watch a clip of Hugh Grant on a chat show. This man kisses and tells like no one else—and he didn’t mince his words when it came to his Notting Hill co-star, Julia Roberts. Critics said the pair didn’t have chemistry and it seems like Grant agreed. When asked about kissing Roberts, he looked uncomfortable and joked about her notoriously large mouth, quipping “I was aware of a faint echo as I was kissing her.”

Rom-Coms Quiz

38. She Broke A Taboo

In 1999, Julia Roberts caused yet another of her signature scandals. Did she run off with a new man? Testify against a family member? No. This time it was far worse. She wore a spaghetti strap dress to the premiere of Notting Hill and, gasp, didn’t shave her armpits! Roberts’s unshaven underarms caused an absolute uproar in the press, handily overshadowing every other aspect of the glitzy premiere. Sigh.

Julia Roberts Facts

39. She Flubbed Her Big Speech

But hey—it wasn’t all bad for Roberts. In 2000, she received rave reviews for her performance as the whistleblower Erin Brockovich, eventually winning the Best Actress Oscar. However, there was an embarrassing twist to the night. The press noticed that in her acceptance speech, Roberts forgot to mention one very important person: the real-life Erin Brockovich. Awkward.

Julia Roberts Facts

40. She Split From Her Boyfriend

Remember how Roberts gushed about her then-boyfriend Benjamin Bratt? Yeah, this is the part where that ends. In 2001, her sweet nothings turned into public accusations. As Roberts’s relationship with Bratt imploded, the exes each accused the other of cheating and not being ready to settle down. Who was telling the truth? Well, let’s explore what Roberts got up to around this time.

Julia Roberts Facts

41. She Met Another Man

While Roberts filmed The Mexican in 2001, she was still dating Benjamin Bratt. According to rumors, that started to change when she met the movie’s cinematographer, Danny Moder. Moder and Roberts had a lot in common: they were both tall and attractive, oh and seriously involved with other people. Roberts had a boyfriend but Moder raised the stakes—he had a wife.

Julia Roberts Facts

42. She Put A Price On Love

At the time, Moder was already married to a makeup artist named Vera Steimberg, and Roberts wanted her out of the picture, stat. She reportedly offered Steimberg $10,000 if she’d agree to a quickie divorce from Moder. Whether Steimberg took the money or not, Roberts got her wish: Moder filed for divorce in 2001. But that didn’t mean this meet-ugly was done just yet.

Married People facts

43. She Got Petty AF

In a move so petty that it’s almost impressive, Roberts was seen wearing a handmade shirt that said “A Low Vera.” People quickly wondered if it was a dig at her man’s ex-wife, Vera Steimberg. When Oprah asked Roberts about the headline-inducing T-shirt, Roberts just said, “It was private” before adding, “I stand by my T-shirt.”

Julia Roberts Facts

44. She Was The Other Woman

During this scandal, Moder’s ex-wife didn’t pull punches. She gave an infamous interview where she called Roberts “a husband stealer.” Her words, however, didn’t change anything. Roberts and Moder continued their romance. Like all couples in the early 2000s, they got tattoos of each other’s initials. By 2002, they were husband and wife.

Julia Roberts Facts

45. She Got Tatted Up

Did you know that America’s Sweetheart has a tramp stamp? Not only does Roberts have ink of Danny Moder’s initials on her lower back, she’s added to the tattoo over the years. It’s now surrounded by the names of her three children. So wholesome, yet…the placement…

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46. She’s Flu-hush With Caaaaash

When notorious prankster George Clooney heard Roberts had joined the cast of Ocean’s Eleven, he sent her an envelope with a note and a 20 dollar bill. The note read, “I hear you’re making 20 a picture now,” jokingly referencing Roberts’s record-breaking $20 million paycheck for Erin Brockovich. It’s rumored that she’s earned at least $20 million for each role ever since.

Julia Roberts Facts








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