As the Academy Awards is a little over a month away, I’m playing catch up to all the nominated films. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s films so this is my intro to his work. Apparently, he got the inspiration for the film from his wife who’s a fashion photographer which sparked an idea about beauty as currency to climb the ladder of high society.
I have to say watching Triangle Of Sadness is quite a singular experience, I feel like I was watching two distinctively different movies… if I were to compare it to reality TV, it’s as if I were watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in the first half and Survivor in the second. I read a review early on that compared it to Titanic had it been hit by a great sea storm instead of an iceberg and all hell broke loose on the ship.
We first meet a male model Carl (Harris Dickinson) during a modeling audition which is hilarious in a cringe-inducing way, a sentiment that permeates throughout the whole movie. Östlund seems to understand what makes people tick and exploit that to make a point. Carl is dating a successful influencer model Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and during dinner, they bicker incessantly about money. Carl is obviously resentful of the fact that in the modeling industry, it’s the women who get paid more.
Things get far more interesting when they get invited to a luxury cruise for the über rich. Östlund managed to find Christina O, the luxury yacht once owned by Aristotle and Jackie Kennedy Onassis as the exterior set. While the guests are still asleep or lounging by the pool, we’re introduced to the ship’s crew. Cleaning person Abigail (Dolly De Leon) gets scolded by Carl and Yaya for wanting to clean their room, then we meet the hard-working head of staff Paula (Vicki Berlin) giving a motivational speech to her staff. She basically instructs them to say ‘YES’ to everything their clients demand of them… clearly a recipe for disaster. I was laughing while shaking my head watching how those out-of-touch one-percenters behave, though many of the characters feel like caricatures that barely resemble real people.
Well, catering to the rich’s every whim soon leads to their demise for both sides of the spectrum… let’s just say insisting on ALL the crew members and servers, even those working in the kitchen, get on the waterslides is a terrible idea. The pièce de résistance of this satire happens during the Captain’s dinner which ludicrously takes place during a major storm… so if you haven’t seen this yet, it’s best to watch this on an empty stomach. It’s hard to watch for a squeamish person like me as Östlund really doubles down on the stomach-churning mayhem of poop and vomit eruption. Between this one and The Menu, I’m glad I’m not one of those who are into gourmet fine dining like Black Russian Caviar or Oysters, I’ll stick with burgers and fries, thank you very much! In fact, that’s what the Marxist Captain (Woody Harrelson) had for dinner so he’s unaffected by the spoiled food. While all the guests are practically eviscerated, he’s spewing quotes from The Communist Manifesto with a Russian oligarch and fertilizer magnate (Zlatko Buric) who hilariously told fellow guests earlier that he sells shit, ha!
Things get from horrible to disastrous and soon we’re transported to a deserted island which a few survivors from the boat manage to reach. Being stranded on an island is definitely the great equalizer and the third act flips the balance of power as guests and staff alike are all struggling to survive. While Paula still assumes her role as the ship’s staff, Abigail refuses to do so as she knows she’s the most capable of them all.
She’s the only one able to catch fish and make fire, she soon had other guests eating out of her hand. “Over there I’m the toilet manager. Here… I’m the captain!” she declares, which reminds me of the drastic shift in Captain Philips when the Somali pirates’ leader tells him, “Look At Me. I’m The Captain Now.” The scenes may be quieter on the island but there’s a sense of dread as well as camaraderie as the group is adjusting to the new circumstances.
After seeing this, I now agree with people lamenting that Dolly De Leon is snubbed out of a Best Supporting Actress nomination. The Filipino-born actress is definitely the most intriguing character on that desert island, as whatever values Abigail had quickly erodes as she too, just like the super-rich, quickly becomes corrupted by power. The other two most memorable performers are the power couple Dickinson and Dean, who sadly passed away soon after the film’s release. I first saw Dickinson in The King’s Man and See How They Run, but he didn’t impress as much as he did here, while Dean is so stunning and charismatic, I’d think she’d have a good career if she hadn’t been taken away so soon. Harrelson is always fun to watch but his role is pretty brief and overall his talent is underutilized here.
Overall this brazen satire is a mixed bag… yes there is a lot to unpack philosophically, with plenty of thigh-slapping hilarity and tragic irony that had me in stitches–I’m still grinning thinking about the hand grenade scene! As amusing as it is though, the movie is as indulgent as the filthy rich aboard the yacht and the running time is way too long. Östlund’s disdain for the wealthy elite is pretty obvious so his social critique of classism feels too on the nose at times. Still, there is plenty to appreciate, I love the multi-national production with actors from various countries. Is it Oscar-worthy? I think for screenplay yes, but not sure about Best Picture. One thing is for sure, Triangle Of Sadness is a queasy-inducing voyage unlike anything I’ve seen this year, so I’m glad I finally watched it! It also made me curious to see Östlund’s other films, Force Majeure and The Square from the past few years.
Have you seen this movie? I’d love to hear what you think!
9 thoughts on “Triangle Of Sadness (2022) Review – a satirical, queasy-inducing voyage”
Reminded me a bit of Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel. Good fun but not for everyone. I agree that Dolly deLeon should’ve been nominated. Great review!
Yeah definitely not for everyone, hard to watch for me during those vomit/poop scenes as I’m very squeamish. Miss De Leon is criminally robbed!
I’ve seen a couple of films by Ruben Ostlund and a short that he did. Force Majeure is the best of the two films I’ve seen from him while his previous film The Square is good but overrated as I’m still unsure about seeing it as it makes me wonder if that film really deserved to win the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
I really should see Force Majeure soon. The Square looks so bizarre but the museum premise sounds interesting.
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I never heard of this film before but it does sound like something I’d enjoy. I’ll put it on my to watch list when it hits streaming.
If you like a wild crazy satire you should enjoy this one!
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