Triangle of Sadness-2022
Director Ruben Östlund
Starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean Kriek, Woody Harrelson
Scott’s Review #1,374
Reviewed July 2, 2023
When I realized the director of Triangle of Sadness (2022) had directed Force Majeure (2014) and The Square (2017) I became very interested in seeing it. I’m not sure I ultimately ‘got’ The Square but Force Majeure was a thought-provoking slice of cinematic brilliance that I still think about now and then.
Sure, Triangle of Sadness was rewarded with three Academy Award nominations, deservedly so. Still, Ruben Östlund has a knack for challenging his audience to think outside the box, cinematically or otherwise with a robust look at social classes.
He crafts a subject matter about class systems and the haves and have-nots that has been explored before in film many, many times. But, in Triangle of Sadness, it feels fresh and fraught with many different possible directions.
The wicked dark comedy explores political talking points like capitalism, communism, and socialism and challenges standard ways of thinking.
It’s on par with the popular HBO series The White Lotus but on steroids.
I cannot recommend the film more heavily especially geared toward those desiring expressive and deep-textured films with some meaning.
Despite the dreary title, it’s far from a dour experience. There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, especially in scenes featuring severe vomiting amid sea sickness.
The rich and famous embark on a luxury cruise with fine dining and servants galore. But after a devastating storm leaves several passengers and staff stranded together on a deserted island the power exchange begins to shift and the social hierarchy is turned upside down.
Events mainly surround a celebrity model couple, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are invited on the luxury cruise for promotional purposes. Yaya is a social media influencer.
They are joined by a Russian oligarch Dimitry and his wife Vera, and an elderly couple Clementine and Winston, who have made their fortune manufacturing grenades and other weapons. Therese, a wheelchair user only capable of speaking a single phrase in German following a stroke; and Jarmo, a lonely tech millionaire who flirts with Yaya.
Besides possibly, Therese, there is not a sympathetic rich character to be found.
The yacht staff are more sympathetic although we don’t get to know all characters very well. Highlights are the head of staff, Paula, who demands the staff obey the guests’ without question, Abigail, a cleaning woman, and the yacht’s captain, Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson), who spends his time drunk in his cabin, and despises the absurdity of the guests’ wealth.
The main events on the ship take a while to get to and the film is divided into chapters. Part 1: Carl and Yaya, Part 2: The Yacht, and Part 3: The Island.
I realized after the fact that the point of the slow build is to show the dynamic between Carl and Yaya, the main characters. Both models and living life based on their looks they are wildly insecure, bickering over money and gender roles.
While not likable nor complete assholes either, enjoyable is a chance to get a fleshed-out perspective on where they are coming from.
My adoration for the film largely stems from not knowing what is going to happen but knowing that at some point the shit is going to hit the fan.
The setup is perfect, especially the put-upon staff. While they are not abused, the relationship is clear. The passengers are in a position of power, the staff is not.
This will soon change.
Late in the game, I unexpectedly found myself rooting for a minor character who takes center stage in the last chapter turning events upside down.
Comparisons can also be found in the recent Best Picture winner Parasite (2019) and old-school international films Swept Away (1974) and L’Vventura (1960).
These are all brilliant films and my hunch is that Triangle of Sadness (2022) will hold up well perhaps achieving even greater acclaim as the years go by.
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Ruben Östlund, Best Original Screenplay