"Triangle of Sadness" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when turning on Ruben Östlund's 2022 film "Triangle of Sadness", but I was definitely not expecting what was going to happen. The only knowledge I had on this film was that it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival and that a bunch of the characters vomit all over the place in one incredibly gross scene. What the film does however, is show the toxicity of the rich class, presenting a dark satire on the rich and wealthy. Perhaps I missed the comedic undertones, but I simply do not get the hype around this film. There is no doubt it was expertly crafted, but I just simply did not enjoy many aspects of this award-winning picture.
The film is split into three different parts, each focusing on different settings and characters in a way. The first act sets up the characters of Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean Kriek) and Carl (Harris Dickinson), two models with the former being the most famous of the two. They are a couple purely for the sake of social media, leaving the viewer to wonder whether the two care for each other much at all, especially since the first thirty minutes or so of the movie is them bickering about who should have paid for their expensive dinner.
We then dive into the second act, where the young couple are then invited on an all-expense paid cruise, where they will interact with other high-class individuals. These include Russian oligarch Dimitry (Zlatko Burić) and his wife Vera (Sunnyi Melles); couple Clementine (Amanda Walker) and Winston (Oliver Ford Davies); Therese (Iris Berben), who is bound to a wheelchair after a stroke leaves her paralyzed and only capable of saying one sentence over and over again; and Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin), a lonely millionaire who just wants someone to notice him. They cause havoc on the ship, including one guest requesting to have all the staff onboard quit their duties and join in on the water slide fun.
However, because of this, the food isn't prepared correctly, forcing all the guests, except the Captain (Woody Harrelson), who has a cheeseburger and fries, to suffer from projective vomit and diarrhea. However, that is the least of their problem. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the guests are forced to survive on their own, looking towards maid Abigail (Dolly de Leon) to help them survive until help comes. However, due to tensions running high and jealously, it leads to a fight for survival against each other.
The entire film focuses on these characters and how the roles are reversed when it really comes down to survival. The filmmakers do a great job of adding in the satirical undertones towards the third act. We see celebrities and millionaires as these higher-ups that are more important than us, and they feel the same exact way about themselves. They can treat workers however they want and get away with it, present on the cruise ship through the whole second act. However, when we get into the third act, the classes are switched, and the maid who is in the lower class is now in power, forcing the rich people to bend to her will over every little thing. The satirical parts are great, and is perhaps the best thing about this film.
However, when looking at this film as a whole, it is sort of a jumbled mess. The timing and pacing are off throughout, and the film runs on for way too long. This could have easily been thirty minutes to an hour shorter and would have had the same effect on the viewer at the end. At the same time, I feel like this movie peaked at the climax of the second half, and it seemed like the third part didn't really seem necessary. This felt more like two films combined than one fluent film from start to finish.
Even though most of the performances here are great from the ensemble of actors, I don't think any of the characters are likable. Now, I think this might have been purposeful on Östlund's part, but when he wants us to feel bad for one character or another, it simply doesn't work. This is a shame because there is so much time there to add redeemable qualities to our characters, but he simply doesn't do it.
Another thing I don't truly understand is the comedy present throughout the movie. Sure, some of the parts were humorous, but none that made me laugh out loud. I've seen interviews and reports on this film, claiming that they laughed from start to finish, and it makes me wonder if I watched the same film as everyone else. Maybe I'm the problem here, since I didn't find most of this movie funny, but that is just how I feel about the humor present here.
I'm not going to discredit anyone else's opinion about this film, and I can see why it was nominated this year for Best Picture at the Oscar's, but I do think it is the weakest nominee. I understand what this film is and what it was going for, but I just simply didn't enjoy or appreciate this movie as much as others do. Maybe in time and with rewatches, my opinion will change. But for now, I think this was a very odd choice to be nominated, and to even with the Palme d'Or.