Triangle of Sadness

Year: 2022
Production Co: imperative Entertainment
Director: Ruben Östlund
Writer: Ruben Östlund
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson, Vickie Berlin

After all the awards buzz surrounding this movie I expected (and hoped for) a razor sharp satire of how we as a society deify the rich but how they're as stupid, selfish and base as we are – and in fact how wealth actually makes many of us worse.

And while there are a few flashes of that here and there, they're lost in a kludge of ideas and plot turns that feel blended together from every idea writer/director Ruben Östlund ever had to put in a movie, and it all goes on waaaaay too long.

In fact the entire final third with the survivors stranded on a desert island felt redundant. It might be because Östlund had already said everything he intended to say about the misbehaving rich.

Otherwise, if his target was human nature in general (which the whole story of Abigail and the leadership revolt seems to be about), then the other two thirds of the story – the vacuous models and the cruise – seem to be about different things entirely.

We meet Carl (Harris Dickinson), a British male model, being assessed at a casting call like a side of beef among a roomful of other beautiful young men with no shirts on, a process that's as inhumane as it is surreal. Later he's at a swanky restaurant with his influencer model girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean) having a quiet disagreement about who pays for dinner, the simmering anger about which threatens constantly to boil over.

Later still they join a rogue's gallery of the ultra rich aboard a luxury yacht attended by efficient and friendly staff led by the clipped but caring Paula (Vicki Berlin).

The yacht launches and as it knifes slowly through the Mediterranean the guests all butt up against the staff and each other, leading to absurdist scenes where one matriarch who thinks she's being friendly and caring insist the entire staff take the day off to go swimming, all of them donning their trunks and sliding down an inflatable slide into the water like docile cattle.

But it all has dire consequences – the carefully prepared food for the captain's banquet spoils, something they'll all pay for in the worst way that night when stormy conditions have them trying to eat all manner of weird foods (all going off) while the ship is tossed and turned on the sea.

Speaking of the captain, that's just one weird aside among many. Played by Woody Harrelson, he's apparently already drunk and disinterested in his job when he enters the story, Paula banging on his door trying to encourage him to sober up, get dressed and assume his duties.

He finally attends the disastrous dinner, and when things have gone completely out of control later than night, he locks himself in the communications cabin with one of the guests – a portly Russian oligarch – both of them ripped to the tits and broadcasting socialist propaganda across the ship while guests are drowning or vomiting themselves to death.

The third act is precipitated by pirates who approach the vessel the next morning, setting upon the aftermath of the chaos. We see the back half of the ship explode in a far off wide shot, we fade to black and then the surviving occupants – Paula, Carl and Yaya, the Russian oligarch and a couple of others – have found their way on life rafts to an island where they set about surviving.

But where Paula tries to organise their tiny society according to the existing class structures, Abigail – an Asian cleaner – is the only one who can fish or build a fire, so she declares herself in charge, meting out reward and punishment as she sees fit and lording over everyone to the extent she chooses a partner to sexually service her in the escape craft every night.

It starts by looking at a relationship riven by dysfunction because of money, moves to a story that's apparently commenting on the dysfunctional relationship between the rich and the world, then descends into a Lord of the Flies-style fable about human beings organising how they relate to each other when that's all taken away.

Maybe that was the point, but I wanted the whole thing to pick a lane and be a bit more cohesive if it was concerning itself so much with theme. There are some interesting things in it – the dinner scene is high (and shocking) comedy worthy of Monty Python – but it's two and a half hours long, feels longer and you have no idea what it's had to say by the time you get there.

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