Two Tickets to Greece (2023)

| July 15, 2023

Going in, I had no idea what Two Tickets to Greece was about.  Given the title, I kind of expected yet another wacky vacation-gone-wrong comedy, an inheritor to National Lampoon’s Vacation which just turned 40, or on the downside, something like the recent yawn-inducing Joy Ride.  The result: Yes, it’s about a vacation where nothing goes right, but its tone and it’s themes are closer to something like Y tu mamá también where the problems inherent in the journey are just a backdrop to the real issues brewing in the human heart.  This is not a comedy, nor it is a hard drama – it’s a dramedy with light moments that are the cartilage for what the characters are experiencing.

The story is about two polar opposites, stuffy Blandine and free-spirited Magalie who were friends in middle school.  An opening flashback shows them in 1989 at the home of Blandine’s parents, stealing liquor and listening to the soundtrack to The Big Blue – which they’ve never seen.  They get caught, but afterwards share a tittering laugh.

Years go by and they have lost contact.  Here, in 2019, Blandine (Olivia Côte) is a radiologist suffering under the weight of a divorce two years prior.  Her son Benjamin (Alexandre Desrousseaux) is worried about her and, while pilfering through some old boxes comes across some stuff that belonged to Magalie.  Blandine says they have not seen each other in decades, and so Benjamin tracks down Magalie (Laure Calamy) and arranges a dinner date, which does not produce the results that he wanted – although his mother doesn’t tell him that.  Magalie is Blandine’s polar opposite.  Where Blandine’s life is buttoned-down and organized, Magalie is a radical flywheel, a free-spirit who is not afraid to pull a minor scam in order to get what she wants – like keeping the price tag on the expensive outfit that she just bought in order to return it after dinner.  This, naturally, drives Blandine crazy.

The dinner date is not to Blandine’s liking, but she doesn’t tell this to Benjamin.  It might have been useful information because afterwards, he arranges for his mother and her former friend to travel to Greece together.  When she objects, he lays down the law – you have two weeks to either patch things up or kill each other.

The vacation goes wrong from the very start, and it’s largely a measure of personality.  Blandine plans every bit of her journey in a notebook and plans to stay at a luxury resort on the Island of Amorgos.  It might be a better place to stay, relax and have activities that pull her away from the flights of fancy brought on by Magalie.  But things go off-course and they end up on the wrong island.

What is set up here are the pieces for a daffy comedy, but director Marc Fitoussi isn’t interested in shenanigans.  His screenplay is led by the personalities of these two women and how they interact and how their differing lifestyles effect each other.  Magalie is fit to float from one thing to the next like a feather on the breeze.  She’s always happy, never letting anything get her down and always moving to the rhythms of circumstance, like the disco music that floats in her head.  When they are expelled from their ferry and miss going to the hotel on Amorgos, Magalie just smiles and says “We’ll sleep under the stars.”  Blandine, on the other hand, has an organizational chart to have fun (I get that).  She wants an itinerary, a plan, a path to follow.  She’d rather sleep in a luxury hotel room than outdoors on the rocks.

After a while I was starting to get frustrated with this formula.  Magalie does something silly, and it has a frustrating effect on Blandine’s plan to have a good time (again, I get that).  But this movie is much smarter than the formula it seemed to be initially promising.  There was a reason that these two lost contact, an argument that separated them which floats between them, waiting to eventually explode.  When it comes it is not what we expect.

What is special about Two Tickets to Greece is that the humanity on display is more important to Fitoussi than an individual moment of silliness.  Both women are suffering internally.  Blandine is wounded by the fact that her husband is having a baby with his new wife, and Magalie uses her music and her party girl ways to overcome some long-past trauma in her childhood which comes to light when the disagreement between them inevitably comes to a head.

What is great about that moment is that, while we can see it coming, it doesn’t land with predictability or with dramatic overload.  It flows out of their relationship in an especially natural way, even if it does have an effect that rushes us to the film’s ending.  Yet, what is between them is pulled into focus when they come into contact with Magalie’s friend Bijou (Kristin Scott Thomas) after they fall asleep on the second ferry and miss Amorgos again.  Bijou welcomes them into her home that she shares with her husband Dimitris (Panos Koronis).  She is a woman who is just as free-spirited as Magalie, but Bijou comes to realize that there is something darker writhing underneath.  Not to give it away, but something is revealed here that gives Blandine a much better focus that eventually leads her to understand why Magalie is the way that she is.

I so appreciate this movie.  I appreciate that it isn’t packaged and polished for my convenience.  Human emotion and the ties that bind are messy and complicated.  They don’t have the clean lines that most screenplays tend to give them.  I appreciated the very specific characters here, the very specific ways in which they connect logically and the understanding and empathy with which we seen the connection between these women.  I appreciate what Blandine and Magalie come to understand about each other, about why they are how they are.  This is a film of real emotion an tenderness.  I felt that when the movie was over, I had been on a journey with these characters, a journey to discover each other and themselves.


About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
Filed in: Foreign