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Review: Triangle of Sadness (2022)

Triangle of Sadness (2022)

Directed by: Ruben Östlund

Premise: A celebrity couple vacations on a luxury cruise ship with ultrawealthy passengers. Things take a turn for the worse as the ship encounters a series of disasters.

What Works: Triangle of Sadness is a satirical take on capitalism. The cruise ship is an economic microcosm and the movie focuses on both the ultrarich passengers and the working class crew who cater to their needs. The filmmakers skillfully weave between these groups; Triangle of Sadness starts as the story of the passengers and the officers with most of the service crew toiling in the background. However, as the circumstances change the movie also shifts with the background characters moving to the front and driving the action. The narrative structure is really interesting. It defies the usual storytelling format of a mainstream Hollywood film in an attempt to tell a broader story of a group of people rather than individuals. That said, there are a few standout performances, among them Zlatko Buric as a Russian businessman who extols the virtues of capitalism and Dolly De Leon as a low-ranking crew member who becomes indispensable when the ship’s fortunes change. As an economic metaphor, Triangle of Sadness dramatizes the way in which human relationships are defined by money and social class, how those relationships can change, and the extent to which people at the top of the hierarchy will go to preserve their standing. There are scenes in Triangle of Sadness that are really funny in a way that is incisive and occasionally grotesque.

What Doesn’t: Triangle of Sadness possesses an odd combination of qualities. It simultaneously feels too long and incomplete, as though relevant scenes were cut out of it and unnecessary scenes were left in. The film begins with a long prologue that introduces the complicated relationship between a pair of fashion models (Charlbi Dean and Harris Dickinson). This sequence sets up the idea of money and class their role in human relationships but the film does so in a way that is sluggish and belabors the point. These characters aren’t particularly empathetic; we can see that their romance is doomed from the outset and there is little reason for the audience to want to see it survive. The rest of the plot to Triangle of Sadness comes across random. The film isn’t building up to critical events especially in the middle portion. The randomness of the action may be part of the point—it suggests the way a capitalist society can be derailed by natural and manmade disasters—but it doesn’t make for satisfying drama.

Bottom Line: Triangle of Sadness is an awkwardly assembled satire. It has moments that are brilliant but the film is also disjointed and overwrought.

Episode: #926 (November 6, 2022)