Triangle of Sadness
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Carl and Yaya, a model and influencer, have a rocky relationship. Going on a luxury cruise doesn’t exactly help, and the rest of the wealthy guests are insufferable. When the ship crashes on a remote island, the tables get turned in this clever class satire that’s earning Oscar buzz.
Woody Harrelson plays the ship’s drunken captain, Where the Crawdads Sing star Harris Dickinson plays Carl, and Black Lightning actress Charlbi Dean stars as Yaya in what sadly became her final role.
Dark satires about the uber-rich are all the rage (as the second season of The White Lotus proved), and there’s no mystery as to why: they serve up a great escape that’s topped off with the schadenfreude we can enjoy with their inevitable comeuppances and downfalls.
This sharply biting comedic drama was helmed by the celebrated Swedish director Ruben Östlund, “the rare filmmaker who can turn chaos and conflict into clever comedy,” as GoldDerby puts it.
Carl and Yaya’s dysfunctional relationship is hysterical yet oddly fascinating. They first bicker over who should pay the bill at a five-star restaurant, which introduces the challenge of gender roles as well as the idea that Carl is just a glorified concubine. He seems to be offering little more than his looks. Their behavior will remind you of the empty echo of wealthy influencers’ apologies for their deplorable behavior, prolonging the chain of vapidity their older counterparts have already mastered.
A Russian billionaire, Dimitry, and his wife Vera treat the crew as dolls, such as when Vera begs a confused crew member to join her in the hot tub. Much of the crew cater to their guests’ every whim, eager for a big tip. In one of the film’s funniest moments, the head of the crew motivates her underlings by having them cheer, “Money! Money! Money!”
Many of the older guests on the yacht have amassed their fortunes in despicable ways. One couple made grenades, another boasts he is “the king of sh*t” (he makes fertilizer). When the ship hits the iceberg (not literally), it’s a grotesque scene: the guests spew up everything they’ve just ingested while the captain and Dimitry debate communism over the ship’s PA system. While some of it feels gratuitous, the irony of it all is brilliant. It’s as satisfying as watching the influencers at the Fyre Festival scramble.
It’s in the third act that the script gets flipped with an unlikely shift in power, and here’s where the movie really earns its buzz — and an award-worthy performance by Filipina actress Dolly de Leon. Just as the remaining guests start to bond in their new reality, the ending delivers a healthy final dose of irony.
A dark comedy that provides a delightful takedown of the one percent, Triangle of Sadness may not be the perfect skewering of wealth, but it’s a bitingly funny and original take. After watching it, you may not think that vacationing on a yacht is the epitome of luxury.
With mature themes and a few gross-out scenes, Triangle of Sadness isn’t ideal viewing for the whole family. Fans of subtle send-ups akin to The White Lotus will appreciate the film’s dark humor. Those who have a morbid fascination with the world of influencers will love the film’s sharp takedown of them.
Triangle of Sadness took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes, one of the most prestigious awards. The film has been embraced by European awards voters more than American contests, but it’s still on Oscars radars, especially for Best Director. Considering Ruben Östlund’s previous satires, including Force Majeure and The Square, it’s not surprising he set his sights on such an easy target. And does he deliver! The miserable rich suffer.