Stream or skip? +2023

triangle of sadness (now available on VOD services such as Amazon Prime Video) is the second Palme d’Or winner for Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, the first being in 2017 The seat (his 2014 efforts to Force majeure, took home ONLY the Cannes Jury Prize). With rising stars Harris Dickinson (The king’s man and Where the crayfish sing) and Charlbi Dean (from TV’s Black Lightning; She died suddenly earlier this year) alongside hardy veteran Woody Harrelson, Ostlund’s latest is a satirical black comedy that has shot down the filthy rich and is gratified to see them suffer – especially during a disgusting puke fest that’s one of the Things of the year you must see-THESE sequences.

The essentials: The “Triangle of Sadness” refers to the crease between your eyebrows that occurs when you’re experiencing a perfectly normal emotional state. That’s also the kind of thing the fashion business has to THROW OUT – you can’t have any of your models search Sad, You know. “Grumpy” and “happy” are more apt expressions for the job our protagonist, Carl (Dickinson), has. His girlfriend Yaya (Dean) is an influencer, and it’s easy to see that the profession makes more money than Carl’s runway modeling. We learn this as they fight over who should pick up the tab at dinner, and it escalates into a full-blown fight filled with all manner of annoying acts of passivity, aggressiveness, and passive-aggressiveness.

That was Act I. Act II finds the pair aboard a yacht populated with bloated fortunes, an overzealous staff trained never to say no, and heavily armed security guards. A helicopter lands in the area and drops a yellow box into the sea, which is quickly recovered by the crew and rushed to the kitchen — when a billionaire on an ultra-luxury cruise wants Nutella, that’s how they get it. Carl and Yaya are sunbathing on the deck and arguing as she is friends with a shirtless crew member and Carl complains to management about the guy and a little later Carl sees the guy get fired and escorted off the ship and Carl feels empathetic therefore bad. Meanwhile, flies buzz in the foreground of the footage and sound mix because of the conspicuous moral rot and decay among the passengers — or maybe it’s a metaphor for flies being attracted to feces. It works either way I think.

When Carl snaps a photo of Yaya pretending to eat pasta for a social media post, we meet some of the other character types on board. There’s Dimitry (Zlatko Buric), a Russian slob who made his fortune off fertilizer and introduces himself by saying, “I sell shit.” Paula (Vicki Berlin) is the human resources manager, always with a glued-on smile. The Captain (Harrelson) gets completely drunk in his cabin and never ventures out again. An elderly couple tells Carl and Yaya how they made a killer by making hand grenades, but their business hit a rough patch when the UN started regulating land mines. The ship crashes and rocks violently in a storm during the captain’s dinner as passengers try to swallow oysters, snails and what looks like a pile of extra-gelatinous hand sanitizer but is likely something disgusting a crustacean excreted. It doesn’t end well. I mean that scene. More happens in Act III, where proponents of the class struggle aboard the ship are caught in a grim scenario and many of them despair, probably wondering if they’ll ever have the opportunity to belittle a wine waiter or underestimate a colored concierge again.

Photo: Festival de Cannes

Which movies will it remind you of?: triangle of sadness often feels like this Gilligan’s Island by Michael Haneke meets The Titanic by Yorgos Lanthomos. Bravo’s fans Under deck Franchise (and its many offshoots) will also find the circumstances familiar, if overly sublime.

Notable performance: Harrelson – who doesn’t go as over the top as we might expect, somewhat disappointingly – and Buric are equal parts amusing and ridiculous in a scene in which they drunkenly debate the tenets of socialism and capitalism.

Memorable dialogue: “I am not a worthy socialist. i’m a shit ssshhhhocialishhhht.” – The captain

gender and skin: Nothing but a scene where Carl and Yaya engage in a little foreplay roleplay.

Our opinion: Bodily fluids gush and Ostlund makes no difference – the innards burst out of both ends of the digestive tract fairly evenly. And just when you think the filmmaker has rendered the great leveler shit and puked, he shows us the servant class busily scrubbing the floor after the gastrointestinal rebellion of the rich. Oh, then. Perhaps this powerful, hauntingly vile sequence is a simple exercise in glee, as amusing as it is sickening.

So consider yourself warned. triangle of sadness takes big, mocking digs at the wealthy class, leaving anyone with a wicked (and understandable!) desire to see billionaires suffer under Ostlund’s satirical sled has plenty to giggle about. The odd, unconventional structure of the script – the first act is a compelling study of male/female power dynamics, the second revels in familiar up/down class struggles and the third envisions a Lord of the flies Scenario – suggests that a larger idea is at play, although what it might be is either obscured or never thoroughly developed. The film is essentially Ostlund, playing with proletarian/bourgeois stereotypes, lightly mocking influencers and the fashion industry, blowing off feminism and the folly of societal facades, and repeating some blatant claims about human failure, the utopian middle ground between sharing what is deserved and of deserving to find what you share. At least he takes the eat-the-rich concept a step further than usual, showing us what the rich eat when it goes in and right out.

Our appeal: The rich are an easy target, but always a worthy one, and triangle of sadness inspires enough righteousness outside of the ruling class to justify a watch. STREAM IT, but this recommendation depends on the strength of your stomach.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more about his work below

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