Just the Ticket

TicketsEntertainmentMoviesAndie MacDowellAndy GarciaElizabeth AshleyBurgess Meredith

Friday February 26, 1999

     No wonder Andy Garcia signed on as co-producer as well as star of the romantic comedy "Just the Ticket"; writer-director Richard Wenk came up with a juicy part for him as a Manhattan ticket scalper desperate to hold on to the love of his life. She's the radiant Andie MacDowell (who's co-executive producer) as Linda, a Macy's TV saleswoman and culinary student.
     Both Garcia and MacDowell have charisma and sexual magnetism to spare and if "Just the Ticket" takes a while to pull its heartstrings taut, it finally kicks in for a strong finish. It's just the ticket for a date night.
     As the film opens, Linda has in fact dumped Garcia's Gary. That's not about to stop him, but the truth is that his life is falling apart just as Linda's is taking off. She has a new boyfriend (Chris Lemmon), solid and stable, and has applied to Paris' legendary Cordon Bleu cooking school.
     Meanwhile, Casino (Andre Blake), a smooth, well-heeled guy with a Caribbean accent, has moved in on Gary's territory just as he's come up with what he thinks will be the perfect idea for winning her back. Now Casino is threatening his chance to make a big killing on scalping tickets for the pope's upcoming appearance at Yankee Stadium.
     Garcia and MacDowell make Gary and Linda's attraction--and their attraction for each other--palpable, but it's all too understandable why Linda worries about what kind of future she will have with a man who doesn't even possess a Social Security card or any identification to prove that he even exists. Gary knows that Linda is the love of his life, the best thing that ever happened to him, but for all his desperation he cannot even begin to conceive of how to live a regular life. Garcia and MacDowell generate plenty of compassion for Gary and Linda's plight, which they make real and involving.
     Not so involving, however, is the time spent in the dicey world of ticket scalpers, which is not all that fascinating and gets a sentimental Runyon-esque gloss. "Just the Ticket" needs to cut to the chase quicker--less time on Gary's grandstanding as fate seems to go against him and more time with Linda. Yet there's no denying Garcia, a most appealing and talented actor, is skilled at pulling out all the stops. "Just the Ticket" works but its stars are better than it is as a whole.
     The film's other solid pleasure is its formidable supporting cast in roles as smartly written by Wenk as they are well-played under his assured direction. Richard Bradford, as Gary's pal and partner, has a career high as an aging ex-fighter and onetime corner man for Joe Frazier; it's the film's Burgess Meredith "Rocky" part. Elizabeth Ashley is on hand as Linda's earthy and wise mother, and Irene Worth, no less, is an amusingly cheap grande dame.
     Laura Harris is a heartbreaker as a wistful, pregnant young woman, one of Gary's associates, who's struggling to stay drug-free. Among many others who impress are Paunita Nichols and Bobo Lewis as Linda's neighbors, Ron Leibman as a bookie who tries to give Gary a dose of reality, Bill Irwin as an unctuous insurance man and Michael Higgins as a priest who hears out Gary in the confessional but can't resist asking, "By the way, can you get me a pair of tickets for the Knicks for Friday night?"
     "Just the Ticket," which has a zesty score, is lots more Hollywood than John Cassavetes, whom director Wenk has said he wanted to emulate. Since his film is at heart traditional escapist entertainment that is doubtlessly just as well.


Just the Ticket, 1999. R, for language. A United Artists presentation of a CineSon production. Writer-director Richard Wenk. Producers Gary Lucchesi and Andy Garcia. Executive producers Andie MacDowell and Yoram Pelman. Cinematographer Ellen Kuras. Editor Christopher Cibelli. Music Rick Marotta. Costumes Susan Lyall. Production designer Franckie Diago. Art director Henry Dunn. Set decorator Karin Wiesel. Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes. Andy Garcia as Gary Starke. Andie MacDowell as Linda Paliski. Richard Bradford as Benny Moran. Irene Worth as Mrs. Haywood. Elizabeth Ashley as Mrs. Paliski.

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