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Even George and Julia can't rescue this romcom: BRIAN VINER reviews Ticket To Paradise 

Ticket To Paradise is a particular disappointment;  a top cast ¿George Clooney and Julia Roberts (pictured together)¿ in a B-minus film

Ticket to Paradise (12A, 104 minutes)

Evaluation: **

Verdict: Starred but weak

Don’t Worry Honey (15, 122 mins)

Evaluation: **

Verdict: More styles than substance

There are more stars in this week’s two major releases than I think critics will give them. Ticket To Paradise is a particular disappointment; a top-notch cast — George Clooney and Julia Roberts — in a B-minus movie.

It’s a romantic comedy that relies way too much on the unmistakable charisma and chemistry of its leads to sprinkle stardust on a hackneyed premise that two people who hate each other end up loving each other.

We’ve seen it a thousand times before in better pictures; indeed, it is the most whiskey of comedic devices, dating all the way back to The Philadelphia Story (1940).

If the writing and plot are sharp enough, as they have been over the decades in films such as The Goodbye Girl (1977), Groundhog Day (1993) and The Proposal (2009), it will always be a winning formula. But Ticket To Paradise, directed and co-written by Ol Parker (whose credits include 2018’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), doesn’t tick those boxes.

The setup has a pair of bitterly divorced parents, David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts), finding rare common ground in an effort to stop their beloved daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), from marrying a Balinese seaweed farmer she met on vacation. They are appalled that she is making the same mistake as them.

Almost by definition, of course, romantic comedies don’t need to be taken too seriously. That this movie brings together two of modern cinema’s big twinkling stars might be enough for some, while others might just revel in the cosmic misfortune of David and Georgia sitting “unexpectedly” next to each other at the Lily’s graduation, then on the long flight to Bali, where, guess what, they’re again horrified to be assigned adjoining hotel rooms.

Ticket To Paradise is a particular disappointment;  a top cast ¿George Clooney and Julia Roberts (pictured together)¿ in a B-minus film

Ticket To Paradise is a particular disappointment; a top cast – George Clooney and Julia Roberts (pictured together) – in a B-minus film

For my money, it's predictable fare, lazily plotted and scripted, and it gets even more predictable as visiting Americans are gagged by quaint local customs.

For my money, it’s predictable fare, lazily plotted and scripted, and it gets even more predictable as visiting Americans are gagged by quaint local customs.

For my money, it’s a predictable fare, lazily plotted and scripted, and it becomes even more predictable as visiting Americans are gagged by quaint local customs. . . but not by the much more amazing fact that Lily, the dish Gede (Maxime Bouttier), speaks English (after his life as a Balinese seaweed farmer) more like a native of Indiana than of Indonesia.

Classic movie on television

The Dam Busters (1955)

Apparently there’s a remake in the works and I can understand why, but nothing will ever eclipse the original, with Richard Todd, a true war hero himself, playing the great Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

Saturday, C5, 6:40 p.m.

Still, if anyone can give all that nonsense a much-needed boost, it’s Clooney and Roberts, who first teamed up on Ocean’s Eleven (2001). It’s their first rom-com together, though, and they’re somehow able to blackmail its dodgy dialogue, though not even Roberts can bring much dignity to the makeshift-cookie homilies on parenthood, among which the solemn observation that a parent will do anything for their child except that they are exactly what they are”.

It’s no spoiler to say it as David and Georgia realize how wrong it is of them to try to sabotage their daughter’s wedding, so they gradually rediscover the attractions that brought them together in the first place. (a slightly and not very complicated process in a fun way by her younger boyfriend, a French pilot). In a way, a similar equation applies to the film: little by little, its shortcomings seem to outweigh its cuteness.

That said, the release date, originally set a week ago today, was pushed back after the Queen’s funeral. I wish I could recommend it as the perfect cinematic tonic to lift the spirits of a discouraged nation. Alas, I really can’t.

Like Ticket To Paradise, Don’t Worry Darling, which I reviewed in more detail from the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, has faint echoes of much better films, such as The Stepford Wives (1975) and The Truman Show (1998).

It's a psychological thriller starring pop superstar Harry Styles (left), formerly of One Direction, in his first leading role.  He and Florence Pugh (right) play a married couple, Jack and Alice Chambers, who live in the suburban utopia of Victory, California, a town of identical 1950s houses and cars.

It’s a psychological thriller starring pop superstar Harry Styles (left), formerly of One Direction, in his first lead role. He and Florence Pugh (right) play a married couple, Jack and Alice Chambers, who live in the suburban utopia of Victory, California, a town of identical 1950s houses and cars.

It’s a psychological thriller starring pop superstar Harry Styles, formerly of One Direction, in his first leading role. He and Florence Pugh play a married couple, Jack and Alice Chambers, who live in the suburban utopia of Victory, California, a town of identikit 1950s homes and cars. The husbands all work for a mysterious company called Victory Project, run by a creepy guru called Frank (Chris Pine).

Everyone in town is in Frank’s thrall, though Jack and Alice are also in thrall to their kidneys. They can’t hold hands, Jack being particularly interested in a certain sexual act. Let’s say he only has one direction in mind.

But it’s a movie more about wives. The story becomes clearer little by little: it is about the subjugation of women, yet another expression of the feminist crusades illustrated by MeToo and Time’s Up.

The story gradually becomes clearer: it is about the subjugation of women, another expression of the feminist crusades illustrated by MeToo and Time¿s Up

The story becomes clearer little by little: it is about the subjugation of women, yet another expression of the feminist crusades illustrated by MeToo and Time’s Up

There’s nothing wrong with that, though a sharp narrative swerve in modern times sends any pretense of subtlety crashing to the ground.

No, the biggest problem is that Don’t Worry Darling – directed by Olivia Wilde, who also plays Alice’s best friend and reportedly fell in love with her main man on set – just isn’t very good.

It’s a shame, because Pugh gives a beautiful, spirited performance as a housewife struggling with social and psychological manipulation, and the film is enjoyable to watch throughout, with a period soundtrack.

But that’s at least three parts style (and two parts style) to one part substance.

How Poitier traded the tomato farm for the Oscars

A few years ago, I asked Michael Parkinson the old, unoriginal question: who would he like to have interviewed on his chat show, but never did.

Frank Sinatra came the answer, but his wife Mary was there and moaned. ‘You always say that!’ she says. “I would like you to choose Sidney Poitier. It would have been much more interesting.

Fortunately, Poitier (who died in January, aged 94) granted interviews, and many clips appear in Sidney (12A, 111 min, ****), a respectful but very pleasant documentary produced by Oprah Winfrey (who also contributes as a talking head, along with Denzel Washington, Barbra Streisand, Halle Berry and the many Poitier girls). Speaking of his impoverished childhood in the Bahamas, where his parents grew tomatoes, Poitier recalls that he didn’t even see a car until he was a teenager.

He couldn’t read either. But he also didn’t know what racial discrimination was until his parents, worried he was hanging out with the wrong crowd, sent him to Miami, Florida.

Speaking of his impoverished childhood in the Bahamas, where his parents grew tomatoes, Poitier (pictured in In The Heat of The Night) recalls not even seeing a car until he was a teenager.

Speaking of his impoverished childhood in the Bahamas, where his parents grew tomatoes, Poitier (pictured in In The Heat of The Night) recalls not even seeing a car until he was a teenager.

The film chronicles his beginnings as an actor (at the American Negro Theater in New York, dubbing Harry Belafonte), then his steady transformation into an Oscar-winning movie star, as well as a leading figure in the civil rights movement. .

“Vote and the choice is yours, don’t vote and the choice is yours,” he advised in a 1960s advertisement aimed at African Americans. It’s fascinating.

Juniper (15.94 mins, ***), a feature debut from writer-director Matthew Saville, is about the relationship between a cantankerous, gin-drinking elderly woman (Charlotte Rampling) and the teenage grandson Kiwi she does not know until she arrives in New Zealand to recover from a badly broken leg.

It’s pretty stereotypical, but newcomer George Ferrier does a decent job as a boy, mourning the death of his mother and resenting the arrival of that belligerent old stranger until, predictably , they begin to bond. Rampling, as always, is terrific.

Sidney is in select theaters and on Apple TV+. Juniper is now in theaters.

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