Triangle of Sadness

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Triangle of Sadness
dir-scr Ruben Ostlund
prd Erik Hemmendorff, Philippe Bober
with Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly De Leon, Woody Harrelson, Vicki Berlin, Zlatko Buric, Iris Berben, Henrik Dorsin, Jean-Christophe Folly, Amanda Walker, Oliver Ford Davies, Sunnyi Melles
release US 7.Oct.22,
UK 28.Oct.22
22/Sweden 2h27

deleon harrelson berlin

Is it streaming?

dean and dickinson
Another lively provocation from Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund, this pitch-black comedy overflows as big ideas are laced through an ambitiously epic tale. It's an exploration of the divisive nature of class, gender, race, disability and language. And as the plot spirals through its pointed chapters, the film can also be seen as a social media parable. It's messy, but the way it challenges the viewer is also exhilarating.
As a model, Carl (Dickinson) earns less than his influencer girlfriend Yaya (Dean), so disagreements usually involve money. As non-paying guests on a luxurious yacht, they're surrounded by super-wealthy passengers. Attentive crew chief Paula (Berlin) never says no to even the most absurd request from a guest, while she worries that the captain (Harrelson) is too stoned to do his job. When the ship sinks after a gut-wrenchingly queasy evening, survivors gather on a deserted Greek island beach. And because she's the only one with essential skills, cleaner Abigail (De Leon) is the captain now.
Nothing feels random in this film, with characters and situations carefully constructed to puncture privileged smugness. This includes extended discussions of politics and economics, plus knowing comments about how Western countries so ruthlessly profit from poorer nations' pain. Each plot point comes along with satirical intent, pushing people into corners while vividly displaying their inability to properly see themselves or others. This means that no one is particularly sympathetic, although Carl at least has some hapless charm.

Indeed, Dickinson has the most complex, engaging role as an alert young man who feels like he has little agency in his life. His contained emotions are visible in his physicality, which makes even his more outrageous decisions eerily resonant. Everyone else is in his or her own shifting power game, played with terrific nuance by Dean, De Leon, Harrelson and Berlin, plus Buric (as a Russian fertiliser magnate), Dorsin (a lonely billionaire) and Folly, who because he's Black is questioned about whether he's a crewman or pirate.

Because the film is grappling with such enormous topics in such in-your-face ways, watching it is more than a little intense. Thankfully, Ostlund is skilled at finding humour in the most unexpected places, lightening the mood with both riotous silliness and jagged wit. Many of the most hilarious moments are accompanied by a bleakly chill, which forces us to remain alert to the underlying themes. While the messages are deliberately blurred, they definitely get our minds spinning. And there are powerful emotional kicks as well.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 17.Aug.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall