Triangle of Sadness (2022)

Triangle of Sadness
Director: Ruben Östlund
Writer: Ruben Östlund
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Vicki Berlin, Dolly De Leon, Alicia Eriksson, Woody Harrelson, Zlatko Buric, Sunnyi Melles, Carolina Gynning, Iris Berben, Jean-Christophe Folly, Arvin Kananian
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2022

Content Note: rape/dubious consent

Carl (Harris Dickinson) is a model, as is his girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean) who is also an influencer. As an influencer, she is invited on a luxury cruise together with Carl. There they – as the famous and moderately rich – mingle with the very rich and not so famous, enjoying all the luxuries on board. But trouble starts with a stormy Captain’s dinner – and only gets worse from there.

Triangle of Sadness has a good eye for economic inequalities and relishes in taking rich people down a peg. Other power axis, it isn’t as aware of, and unfortunately the story ends up nowhere, so my reaction to it was overall rather mediocre.

THe film poster showing the central characters lounging on a yacht. At the back of the yacht, there is an explosion.

Triangle of Sadness is a long film, especially if you consider that the third (and last) chapter of the film is actually its story. Without having looked at my watch, I’m reasonably certain that the film is about 2 hours set-up and 30 minutes story. Nevertheless, it never feels long – apart from the vomit and diarrhoea orgy that has made the film already infamous (in that scene, Woody Harrelson had the most fun, and I did enjoy his performance, but it could have been shorter, too). That is drawn out way too long – and honestly, it was just too disgusting for me, I almost joined in the vomiting.

I get the pleasure in seeing rich people having all of their class stripped away from them by reducing them to the most disgusting bodily functions, but in its glee about that, the film loses sight of who has to clean up after them in the end: the crew – mostly poor people of color. And that is rather indicative of the film’s overall social analysis. Since it’s reason for being is social commentary, I expected a little more from it.

The first mate Darius (Arvin Kananian) and Captain Thomas (Woody Harrelson) greeting the guests at the Captain's Dinner.

That the film is not so good with gendered or racialized power structures becomes rather obvious in pretty much everything involving Carl. His diatribe in the beginning when Yaya doesn’t pick up the check at the restaurant (although she’s the bigger earner), feels kind of pointless and more like MRA talking points than anything really insightful. And when the tables are turned later in the film, and Carl basically has to sell himself to Abigail (Dolly De Leon), seeing a white man in the position where he has to give sex in exchange for security lays bare the power dynamics that often work the other way round in real life, but also ignores how his whiteness and maleness would also shift things when engaging with a woman of color.

In the end, that particular take on things is also problematic because it turns the film away from social commentary and turns it into a relationship problem between individuals. A strange shift that only underscores the feeling of the ending overall: the feeling that Östlund really didn’t know where to take his characters or his story. And so, the ending comes out of nowhere, goes nowhere and is generally dissatisfying. As is the entire film, despite some very fun moments.

Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and Carl (Harris Dickinson) lying in the sun.

Summarizing: okay.

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