Written and Directed by Ruben Östlund | 147 min | ▲▲▲▲△
An earlier version of this review appeared here on the blog during the coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Östlund’s The Square was a favourite of mine the year it came out, and like that film his new one won the big award, the Palme d’Or, at the Cannes Film Festival. I don’t think Triangle of Sadness is quite as good — it would be hard to match the skewering of modern masculinity in both The Square and Force Majeure — but the film works as a wilder kind of a movie, an uproarious class comedy, this time setting a lacerating eye at the One Percent.
It starts like it’s going to take its shots at the fashion world, which Robert Altman’s Pret A Porter proved isn’t always easy to do well — though maybe Zoolander had a little more luck — but as we follow the bickering couple at its centre (the recently and sadly passed away, Charlbi Dean and Denis Shapovalov-alike Harris Dickinson) onto a yacht cruise for the super-rich, the film really sets sail.
The upper deck/lower deck divide is where the tension (and humour) lies, between the clueless toffs and the hard working crew who do everything they can to make the cruise comfortable because, you know, money.
The satire is blunt, but the laughs come thick and fast, and the picture has no trouble mixing low-brow, physical humour — it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie so in love with body fluids that didn’t also qualify as gore — with more political concerns.
There’s something particularly Scandinavian about it. Östlund is pointing and laughing at his characters in a way that reminds me a little of Thomas Vinterberg and Anders Thomas Jensen‘s recent work. It doesn’t give the audience a pass, but recognizes the hypocrisies of the world we live in. I’ve read a few takes that see the film as insipid and insulting because its targets are so obvious — as if that’s any reason not to take a whack at them. If Triangle of Sadness makes you angry, maybe check your privilege.
A supporting appearance from Woody Harrelson as the perpetually soused captain is fun, but things get really interesting in the final act.
The film seems to suggest the thirst for power and status is universal, no matter what your station in life. I’m not sure I’d be so cynical about it, but I’m willing to hear it as a point of argument. That mid-movie farce might be most satisfying as a metaphor for the desperation of late capitalism in the face of climate change and the inevitable end of our globalized system.
Either way, see it with a crowd and your favourite cinepanions and make time for a conversation after the lights go up. This is a movie with quite a lot on its mind.