JUST THE TICKET
Release Date: February 26, 1999
Genre: Romantic comedy
Runtime: 112 minutes
Distributor: United Artists/MGM
Director: Rishard Wenk
Producer: Gary Lucchesi & Andy Garcia
Writer: Richard Wenk
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Andy Garcia plays Gary Stark, a ticket scalper with the panache and a fun-loving nature necessary to make a man without a phone, or any means of identification, interesting and not tragic. Andie MacDowell plays his paramour, Linda Palinsky, an appliance saleswoman who dreams of being a great chef. Both leads are radiant in their roles. Their chemistry works delightfully well on screen.
Gary and Linda were long-time love interests until Linda realizes that Gary "will never grow up." Although he is romantic and endearing, Gary dresses like he lives in the streets and lives week to week on the next big show whose tickets he can scalp. Linda's in cooking school in New York and dreams of going to the famous Cordon Bleu School in France. The movie opens with Gary in a confessional booth asking advice from a priest, played by Michael Higgins. While the priest doesn't offer up much more than cliches such as "Trust God, He will show the way," he does ask Gary if he can get him three tickets to Knicks basketball games.
Gary quickly hatches a plan to re-capture Linda's heart. The Pope is coming to town and his appearance at Yankee Stadium is sure to fetch a high value. Gary believes this will enable him to buy Linda something that will "set them up." What, we're not sure, and Linda's obviously heard it all before.
Writer and director Richard Wenk does a good job in establishing Linda's rejection as understandable. Not only does Gary not even possess a Social Security card, he seems to enjoy living in a one-room apartment with a phone that he plugs into an electrical socket to make calls. Gary is clearly not a man who has the mildest notion of what it means to build a life with someone.
Even so, Gary is the ultimate salesman and an eternal optimist. He embarks on his plan to sell Pope tickets and get a big load of cash just as a new scalper named Casino moves into his territory. Regrettably for him, he loses out to Casino and his sources. Meanwhile, Linda has a new boyfriend and gains admittance into Cordon Bleu, which gives Gary just three weeks to make things right. Gary tries all the gambits he knows, even lowering his standards for ticket sources, something which nearly alienates his long-time "business" partner, Benny.
Benny is a man at the end of his life, with nothing to show for it. With missing teeth, an uneven gait and a hearing aid, Benny is a walking illustration of what Gary's future could be. If Gary continues living only for today and not investing in tomorrow, he will lose Linda, the love of his life, and the possibility for a life with her and a family. Richard Bradford plays the important heart-wrenching role of Benny so brilliantly that he deftly defines what is at stake for Gary.
Also complementing Andy Garcia and Andie MacDowell's performances are Elizabeth Ashley as Linda's mother, who has a soft spot in her heart for Gary, and Linda Harris as Gary's assistant, "Blinker," a pregnant woman struggling to get over a drug habit. Not all the acting is faultless, however. For instance, Paunita Nichols plays Linda's best friend, Rhonda, too harshly.
Reportedly, the script for this movie was originally written as a drama, and its comedic elements were added on after the fact. The basic story is simple, but some of the subplots, such as the focus on the details of scalping, take away from the overall arc of whether or not Gary will succeed in winning Linda back.
Best of all, Gary is a man who clearly believes in God, despite his unorthodox and problematic lifestyle. He goes to confession several times in the movie, although one time he brings a beer. Gary also thanks God openly when he finds out that the Pope is coming to town, and he has a crucifix hanging on his dingy apartment wall. In fact, the turning point in the movie occurs when Gary unexpectedly comes face to face with the Pope, who blesses him. This blessing turns out to be prescient, for Gary does in fact land on his feet only by an act of pure grace, not through his own efforts. All of this gives JUST THE TICKET a Christian worldview that is theologically and spiritually positive, despite the movie's unbiblical elements. Thus, the movie recognizes the presence of God and His unseen hand in our lives. Regrettably, however, the movie does contain some strong foul language and an early scene where the protagonists are shown in bed one morning, though they are fully dressed.
To sum up, JUST THE TICKET is not a great movie - it gets bogged down in the middle - but the ending is heartwarming and uplifting, and both lead actors are enjoyable to watch.