Film Reviews

Ticket to Paradise & Moonage Daydream

Published September 15, 2022
David Bowie looks in the mirror to remind himself who he is today

George Clooney and Julia Roberts have bought a ticket to Paradise, but which Paradise is that? They think they’re in Bali but someone has sold them a pup, because it’s actually Queensland – the Whitsundays to be precise. Their confusion is understandable because they seem to have landed in a colony of Balinese people, all speaking the local dialect, and living in distinctive Balinese huts.

Why are they here? Most probably because they are being paid very large sums of money to appear in a pitifully lightweight comedy, but also because the Australian government gifted the film’s producers $6.4 million under its Location Incentive Program. The production is expected to inject many millions more back into the Australian economy, although I can’t say exactly how because I don’t have the spreadsheet in front of me.

Bali may have been the original choice, but it was ruled out by the pandemic. Luckily Queensland, as everybody knows, has remained COVID free.

George and Julia play David and Georgia, a pair of middle-aged American divorcees, whose one-and-only daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), is getting married to a handsome Balinese fellow named Gede (Maxime Bouttier). They claim to have come over for the wedding, but their real mission is to sabotage these nuptials which will strand their little darling far from home, wasting the law degree she has worked so hard to acquire.

David and Georgia were only married for a few years before a catastrophic divorce left them with an undying hatred of each other… Already you can see where this is leading.

Today they are both successful professional people, he as an architect, she as an art dealer. Obliged to attend Lily’s graduation ceremony they inevitably rub shoulders. The sparks fly and lots of snarky wisecracks are exchanged in a rather pale emulation of a Howard Hawks screwball comedy, although this is more like a deflated beachball comedy.

Lily’s trip to Bali with her friend, Wren (Billie Lourd), was supposed to be a post-graduation holiday, but after meeting Gede, who comes from a family of affluent seaweed farmers, she has decided to spend the rest of her life in the tropics. Since Bali/Whitsundays is portrayed as nothing more than a succession of dazzling beaches, lush vegetation and luxury accommodation, one can understand her preference.

Do they look embarrassed? A bit smug, maybe..?

You’ll be surprised to learn that the place works its charms on David and Georgia as well, even though the latter is being pursued by Paul (Lucas Bravo) a romantic young airline pilot, desperate to rush her to the altar. As this is a rom-com we know that any socially awkward sexual pairing will eventually be replaced by a more orthodox model. We also know that the cultural differences between Lily and Gede count for nothing, so long as true love blossoms.

Because this is an American movie, we can be sure that the Balinese characters will be as chatty and smiley as all exotic ‘natives’ are in the eyes of Hollywood producers. The deep, cynical stuff is reserved for David and Georgia, while the Balinese are as innocent as children. It’s a view of South-East Asia almost as tinselled as that of Crazy Rich Asians (2018) – a vision of the world remade by a tourism campaign.

Director, Ol Parker, knows how to blend a formula film, having had a stake in such cinema classics as The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) and Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (2018). With Ticket to Paradise he’s given us a scenic holiday location, a young ethnically-diverse couple in love, and a pair of oldies who rediscover their long lost passion. If this is your idea of a nice night at the pictures, I won’t even try to dissuade you.



There’s a lot more to grapple with in Moonage Daydream, Brett Morgen’s breathless documentary on the late David Bowie, a rock star whose life was one long succession of assumed masks. Morgen skips most of the biographical details in favour of an extraordinary mega-edit that tells Bowie’s story by means of interviews, candid snippets, video clips and concert footage. It’s well over two hours, but time never drags.

We don’t get a voiceover telling us David Bowie was born David Robert Jones, in Brixton, 1947, or that he had one bad eye, following a fight at school. We don’t hear much of his early, slightly embarrassing pop songs, or learn that he took his stage name from James Bowie who invented the famous knife: literally announcing himself as ‘cutting edge’. There’s nothing about Bowie’s first wife, Angie, or his friendships with figures such as Iggy Pop. The list of what we don’t get could be extended forever, as Morgen felt all this stuff had been adequately covered by earlier films and publications. What he gives us is perilously close to art, which is something that might also be said about David Bowie.

The film begins with Bowie discoursing about Nietzsche in the way a semi-erudite popstar might discourse about Nietzsche. The German philosopher who announced that God is dead is but one of a jumble of influences on Bowie’s fertile creativity. Another big moment was his discovery of the “cut-up” technique of writing practised by Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs. This is why Bowie wrote lyrics such as:

“If you want it, boys, get it here, thing”. Thing?

What it all adds up to is a boy from Brixton with a burning curiosity and a passion for art in all its forms, who would turn self-invention into a profession, changing masks and personas from one album to the next. There was Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, and finally, David Bowie himself, which felt like another assumed persona. His extravagant outfits, gender-bending and musical versatility earned him a following that bordered on religious fanaticism. For a good ten years, Bowie redefined rock music, starting with his 1970 album, The Man Who Sold the World, and reaching a climax with Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) in 1980.

When he returned in 1983, after a three-year break from recording, it was with a new, more commercial sound that earned him a fortune but failed to satisfy his creative ambitions.

Among rock stars Bowie was indeed an artist, and his approach has exerted a decisive infuence on this documentary, which occuppied five years of Brett Morgen’s life as he sifted through the archives, watching thousands of hours of interview and concert material. The final product pays homage to Bowie’s “cut-up” writing, and to his embrace of “chaos and fragmentation” – terms that come up again and again.

Moonage Daydream presents an unashamedly partial overview that dwells on certain aspects of Bowie’s personality, such as his compulsive travelling, or the way he always seems like a loner, even in the midst of his greatest celebrity. It’s as much a ‘trip’ as it is a documentary, a huge, dense, immersive montage that draws one into the singer’s private world, shuffling through the multiple identities he explored on stage. It is, perhaps, the ultimate fan’s film, made by a documentarian who allowed Bowie to take over his entire life for five years. In watching this movie we feel something of what Morgen must have felt, as he grew closer to his subject, being moved by his achievements and vulnerabilities, imagining that he had finally begun to understand this most elusive of personalities. For those who don’t wish to plumb the depths of Bowie’s psyche, it’s enough to sit back, like major Tom in his tin can, and enjoy the ride.

Ticket to Paradise

Directed by Ol Parker

Written by Ol Parker & Daniel Pipski

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Lucas Bravo, Billie Lourd, Geneviève Lemon, Ifa Barry, Cintya Dharmanyanti, Agung Pindha, Ilma Nurfauziah

USA/rated M, 104 mins


Moonage Daydeam

Written & directed by Brett Morgen

Starring: David Bowie,

Germany/USA, rated M, 135 mins


Published in the Australian Financial Review, 17 September, 2022