Triangle of Sadness, 2022.
Written and Directed by Ruben Östlund.
Starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Iris Berben, Sunnyi Melles, Dolly de Leon, Vicki Berlin, Oliver Ford Davies, Jean-Christophe Folly, Amanda Walker, Hanna Oldenburg, Malte Gårdinger, Linda Anborg, Carolina Gynning, Arvin Kananian, Camilla Läckberg, Beata Borelius, Shaniaz Hama Ali, Ralph Schicha, Timoleon Gketsos, Chris Westerstrom, Alicia Eriksson, Mira Uszkureit, Thobias Thorwid, Amanda Schulman, and Alex Schulman.
Models Carl and Yaya are invited for a luxury cruise with a rogues’ gallery of super-rich passengers. At first, all appears Instagrammable, but the cruise ends catastrophically and the group find themselves marooned on a desert island.
Male model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and beauty influencer Yaya (Charlbi Dean) – the IT couple at the center of writer/director Ruben Östlund’s latest satirical skewing, Triangle of Sadness – share an expensively lovely dining experience, at least until the check comes. Yaya sneakily pushes it back over to Carl, who notes that he always pays. He is also not trying to be a cheapskate, but speaking his emotions that he doesn’t want to be used for money and that he would prefer no traditional gender roles assigned to their relationship dynamics.
However, that’s something that turns out to be a problem since Yaya soon acknowledges her manipulating skills and confesses that she is only looking for a rich man to provide for the rest of her days. It still doesn’t stop Carl from confidently proclaiming that she will genuinely fall in love.
It’s not the opening sequence to Triangle of Sadness; that belongs to a prologue establishing how vapid the scene is that these characters inhabit, but assuredly one that gets the social commentary rolling. It’s also funny as hell, even though it goes on through multiple locations and roughly 15 minutes (kudos to Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean for their comedic timing in delivering uproarious banter and bickering).
There is sky-high praise when I say that if Triangle of Sadness consisted of partners verbally warring over a check and gender roles for 90 minutes, it would have been incredible; that’s how attention-grabbing and commanding Ruben Östlund is as a writer. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the debate, hanging onto each argument thrown into the mix.
Triangle of Sadness has several other moving parts for better and worse, transforming into a different movie entirely with each subsequent act. After somewhat making up, Carl and Yaya board a luxurious yacht, where Carl spends what feels like 50% of his time fulfilling the request of photographing Yaya (she also constantly takes selfies), who is more concerned with flirting with other rich guys and looking for a better match, even though it brings out some jealousy.
There is a somewhat nuanced shift removing focus from Carl and Yaya, introducing a plethora of other wealthy characters (including one that got rich from a fertilizer enterprise) that reveal their stupendous ignorance to one another. They also tend to have unreasonable criticisms of the yacht’s upkeep, pointing out that the sails are a tiny bit dirty.
However, the staff are inclined to serve the rich and obey their every command with a cheerful smile, hoping for some kind of bonus at the end of the journey (apparently, the key to a successful trip is making sure all the guests are happy during the first hour on the last day, which also sums up Triangle of Sadness‘ quality as a movie if you replace “the last day” with “the last scene/ending” and bump one hour up to 80 minutes).
In a glorified cameo, the ship’s captain is played by Woody Harrelson, a drunken recluse who refuses to exit his cabin, drinking himself into a stupor every night. A captain’s dinner is officially set, which eventually causes him to appear in the flesh, turning out to be an easy-going common man deeply ticked off by these rich pricks. One of the most amusing sight gags (of numerous of them) sees him chowing down on a burger and fries for dinner while everyone else indulges in some fancy artsy food that looks gross and doesn’t fill anyone up.
Dinner does a whole lot worse; everyone begins projectile vomiting (played for comedic effect) and overflowing bathrooms with diarrhea that quickly begins seeping across the floor into other rooms, all as the boat rocks and slants due to some tough waters (appropriately realized with angled photography from Fredrik Wenzel, who does a tremendous job shooting all of the movie). Meanwhile, the captain and one of the elites wage a battle of words and philosophy, socialism and capitalism.
It would be a disservice to the reader to say where Triangle of Sadness goes from there (although I will say a genius callback triggers the third act), but just know that an analysis of gender roles comes back into play. For as much as Ruben Ostlund is fixated on justifiably tearing down the rich and their vanity, the script is also sharply observant in those areas, with one of the less fortunate characters (Dolly De Leon) resourcefully turning things upside down in ways that bring the unhealthy relationship dynamics of Carl and Yaya back to the forefront.
However, the wit is scattered across a bloated third act that desperately needs to get to the point quicker, not necessarily because the characters are all unlikable (they are always entertaining to be around), but to stop dragging things out until the admittedly perfect conclusion.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com