Two Tickets to Greece sails a familiar course and though it bumps some rocks, it never runs aground. Still, there are few risks in this French film. The journey rather than the destination seems the intended take away. Life is only an adventure when in motion and the company we keep is what makes the path delightful. However, the story never really goes anywhere fresh. So, no matter how well acted or picturesque, the whole movie loses the wind while drifting towards an obvious conclusion.
Originally titled Les Cyclades, the story follows Blandine Bouvier and Magalie Graulières played by Olivia Côte and Laure Calamy. Estranged friends, once the very best in middle school, reunite later in life. Blandine is deeply depressed after a divorce, while Magalie is an effusive freelance journalist and even freer spirit. The two mismatched personalities, which completed each other in youth, now grate against one another. Yet, the two still end up taking a trip together, finally visiting the Greek islands they always planned to as teenagers.
It’s an old story told any variety of ways over the years. Yet, this odd couple’s road trip in search of lost youth follows the carpe diem formula smoothly enough. Since Two Tickets to Greece is more interested in the motivations of its characters, taking a predictable path is fine. It allows the audience to focus on why rather than what is happening. The problem becomes how the film deals with and reveals those insights.
Director Marc Fitoussi, who also wrote the script, is primarily interested in the things which have gone unsaid. Dialogue is often meant to express how Magalie and Blandine are dancing around various issues. As such, Two Tickets to Greece isn’t worried about plot so much as characterization. It’s a smart move. However, because it is attempting to deal with what’s unspoken, the movie doesn’t say much.
One central problem is that very real, intense issues are treated like flash paper. They burn bright for an instant, illuminating character actions ever so briefly before vanishing from the film entirely. Those things no one wants to speak about essentially return to the realm of the unspoken as if that’s where they always belong.
Two Tickets to Greece sails by deeper matters, observing them in passing rather than exploring their motivational force. As such, childhood abuse, cancer, and infidelity become nothing more than talking points, mentioned almost casually like tropes explaining away actions. The gravity of what’s expressed is never given any weight as characters seem determined not to explore any of it. Although some may argue there’s a reality there, Two Tickets to Greece sends a blithe message about people dealing with intense issues. Essentially, you’re only unhappy if you choose to stay unhappy—go with the flow and life improves.
What gives the film its charm is the saving grace of the two leading ladies. Olivia Côte as Blandine ably conveys a person struggling in the bricked-up depths of depression. This makes her blossoming joy all the more delightful to witness. Meanwhile, Laure Calamy (Full Time) is infectiously effusive as the effervescent Magalie. Though she borders on a manic pixie trope, Calamy is likely to charm any audience with her comically carefree attitude.
It would just be nice if the two got meatier dialogue to bite into. They seem capable of handling more complex emotional expressions than the script gives them. This is especially true since it’s the performances by Calamy and Côte which elevate the predictable discussions and disagreements one finds in a film like Two Tickets to Greece.
Kristin Scott Thomas also joins the cast as Bijou, a gracefully aging bohemian mentor to Magalie. Unfortunately, her performance and character slow the pace as events increasingly center around her. Two Tickets to Greece briefly becomes less about the rocky reunion between two estranged friends and more about an old freeloader spouting carpe diem clichés about sex, love, and going with the flow.
Films involving travel typically feature the landscape, especially anywhere touristy. To a certain extent, Marc Fitoussi captures a few picturesque shots. Yet, there’s never a visual sense of what is or isn’t alluring about these places. Part of that may be because the two leads are constantly frustrated in their efforts to reach their destination. Instead, they’re always landing somewhere else and trying to make the best of it (establishing a blatant slim allusion to Homer’s “Odyssey”).
Although arguably a misstep, Two Tickets to Greece isn’t about the places but the people. By ignoring scenery, the film focuses on characters instead of the Greek islands. This helps establish the notion that, metaphorically and literally, Blandine and Magalie never get to see what they’re looking for. In fact, risking spoilers, one of the few character reactions viewers get to see is disappointment when the scenic destination is less satisfying alone.
Still, visually there are some smart moves. Paris is depicted as rather dark in contrast to the ever bright Greek islands. Blandine visually metamorphizes through a combination of makeup and lighting, changing over the course of the film from a dour revenant to someone alive with potential happiness. Though these maneuvers feel a little like Cinema 101, they are effective.
Two Tickets to Greece is a light comedy that steers towards some serious issues but ultimately sails by without risking those rocks. To remain sunny, the movie avoids darker themes which could’ve uniquely broadened it. Some will argue there’s a realism there, but the film’s attempt to address the unspoken leaves such topics largely silent. It’s a shame since leading performers Laure Calamy and Olivia Côte seem more than able to handle deeper material. Still, they keep the film alive with bubbly charm and sympathetic sadness.
However, Two Tickets to Greece is a predictable film. Though the story flows, it visits nowhere new. By no means a bad movie, there’s nothing unique compelling a view. Those wanting a quiet, charming comedy will do well as it avoids blockbuster bombast but not much else.