Triangle of Sadness (2022)
The Palme d’Or-winning satire Triangle of Sadness comes from excellent stock. Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund made audiences squirm with 2014’s Force Majeure and 2017’s The Square, so I anticipated an excellent comedy that made me cringe as often as it made me laugh. The unwieldy two-and-a-half hour experience made me laugh, made me avert my eyes, and ultimately underwhelmed in approach and pacing. Lampooning the entitled, oafish, and essentially useless upper class is an easy enough comedic approach, but I guess I was waiting for something more specific or nuanced. I did enjoy the kindly elderly couple who made their fortunes on grenades and landmines. The movie starts off lackluster, with a handsome young couple (Charbli Dean, Harris Dickinson) arguing over money, and then transitions to its luxury cruise where the rich are pampered and pandered, like when the entire crew has to drop whatever they’re doing to change into a swimsuit and take a dip in the water to please a rich lady who bravely believes she is helping these poor souls “relax” from their troubles. Too often, the movie trades in pretty broad critiques and even humor. There’s a nauseating ten-minute sequence that is nonstop projectile vomiting and exploding toilets overrunning with filth (do you get it? The ship is also called “Society” and it sinks, so do you get that?). The last hour of the movie involves a small group from the cruise trying to survive on a deserted island, and it’s here where the power balance shifts, allowing Abigail (Dolly De Leon), one of the housekeeping staff, to become a de facto leader because she’s the only person with useful skills. The obnoxious rich people begin to get some comeuppance, but Östlund won’t allow easy payback for satisfaction. I missed the simplicity of Force Majeure‘s deconstruction of fragile masculinity. It was a much more coherent thesis that felt richly explored with its supporting characters and central dynamic. I think this movie was a little too scattershot and lackadaisical. It’s supposed to be about capitalism propping up a useless class of people, but there isn’t enough savagery during the island portion to really seal this prickly commentary. At no point, do people literally eat the rich, alas. Triangle of Sadness ends so abruptly that I loudly groaned, as it feels less ambiguous and more like I’m missing out on an actual conclusion of a movie, and after 150 minutes at that. It’s an entertaining and exacting experience but one that could have benefited from judicious trimming and a little more shaping, with its narrative and social criticisms. Also, R.I.P. Dean, who died shortly after the film’s release and was only 32 years old.
Nate’s Grade: B