‘Triangle of Sadness’ – Review

Triangle of Sadness may be full of obvious irony, but the screenplay is so sharp, and the ensemble truly makes it a worthy voyage

While money talks in Triangle of Sadness, money is also not immune to seasickness in the Palme d’Or winning film. Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Östlund’s newest film, is a sleek satire that may not have much new to say but is still wildly entertaining. Östlund knocks down the elite for almost three hours, which could sound like an unpleasant viewing experience, yet I found the film to fly by. Triangle of Sadness proves Östlund is a master of creating wickedly unnerving scenarios. The film is best seen with a crowd and without much knowledge of the contents of the film. This review will not contain spoilers, but I highly recommend seeing the film before reading the full review.

Triangle of Sadness is split into three chapters over its runtime, each more enjoyable than the last. The first chapter is our introduction to models Carl, played by Harris Dickinson, and Yaya, played by the late Charlbi Dean, who serve as our main characters throughout the film. After a successful ad campaign years ago, Carl struggles to book gigs while Yaya is getting runway work. A conversation, literally spelled out, tells the audience of the pay gap between female and male models as we see Carl get passed over in auditions. Yaya struts the runway in front of a screen that flashes “Everyone’s Equal Now” as we watch Carl and a group of others lose their seats at the fashion show to a group of influencers who need front-row seats. This is one of the first of many sequences in which we see the higher power not even seeing the behaviors of others around them affecting those below them.

Perhaps the most basic yet effective scene of the movie displaying the class disparity comes with a dinner scene between Yaya and Carl, where Yaya seems to ignore the check and waits for her boyfriend to pick up the bill. While I don’t want to dive into specifics, this scene really stuck with me for days after watching it. Hours after a heated argument (in any just world, the elevator scene would be Dickinson’s Oscar clip), the couple shares an honest, intimate conversation in their hotel room that presents Östlund’s commentary at its most straightforward yet most successful. 

As the second chapter starts, the audience is transported to a luxury yacht that Yaya has secured their passage on with her power as an influencer. The ensemble cast really starts to present itself within this chapter with Paula, played by Vicki Berlin, who tries to keep her employees running smoothly on the ship and Dimitry, played by the incredible Zlatko Buric, a rich man who refers to himself as the “king of shit.” The audience is given a sort of Gatsby-like introduction to Captain Thomas Smith, played by Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson, as we are brought to his quarters multiple times before actually seeing him. 

The second chapter starts out by showcasing a luxury experience and turns into a full-fledged nightmare for the guests on board, yet a thrilling ride for the audience. As the ship turns into chaos and falters in rough waters, the divisions between each class seem to fall away. The widely-discussed bodily fluids sequence is best left as a surprise for viewing; the scene is expertly shot and shifts the tone perfectly to set up the final act. 

Once the third act kicks off, Dolly de Leon not only takes over the story, but her performance fully encompasses each theme Östlund is working at perfectly. The misuse of power throughout the film flips on its head in the final act, and de Leon’s performance truly pushes the theme to exactly the right level. Her character, Abigail, is a custodian worker from the yacht who has a better read on economics than most of the wealthy passengers. De Leon’s entry into the film is late but truly an unforgettable performance that keeps the audience glued to the screen. 

Triangle of Sadness may be full of obvious irony, but the screenplay is so sharp, and the ensemble truly makes it a worthy voyage. Östlund not only goes after the insanely wealthy but also tackles the use of social media and beauty as currency. Triangle of Sadness is truly the satire of the year and the satire we deserve. Come for the take-down of the rich, stay for the socialism!

Grade: A-

Oscars Prospects:
Likely: Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Dolly de Leon)
Should be Considered: Best Director, Best Picture

Release Date: Out now in Selected Theaters
Where to Watch: Theaters

Kenzie Vanunu
she/her @kenzvanunu
Lives in LA with her husband, daughter and dog. Misses Arclight, loves iced vanilla coffees.
Favorite Director: Darren Aronofsky
Sign: Capricorn

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