Ruben Östlund’s new film “Triangle of Sadness”, which won the Palme d’Or award when it was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in last year, attempts three acts of absurd satire which are often amusing even though they do gel together well on the whole. Although I felt a bit impatient around its last act where it spins its wheels at times, the movie still diligently provides barbed laughs as before, and it mostly works as a blatant but effective black comedy about class and gender roles.
After the casual opening scene featuring lots of shirtless males models waiting for their audition, the first act of movie focuses on the relationship problem between one of them and his current girlfriend. At a fancy restaurant, Carl (Harry Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean, who unfortunately died suddenly not long after the movie was shown at the Cannes Film Festival), happen to argue over who should pay the bill for their dinner, and their increasingly silly argument is continued even while they are going back to staying place. It is clear that Carl is grumpy just because he feels rather emasculated by Yaya’s more successful status with more money in her hand, but Yaya turns out to be no better than him as your typical social media influencer, and their argument is eventually ended as they come to make a sort of reconciliation for their mutual benefit.
In the next act, we see Carl and Yaya enjoying a luxurious cruise along with a number of other guests on a big yacht. Every crew member of the yacht is ready to serve the guests as much as possible just because that is what they are paid for, but their captain, hilariously played by Woody Harrelson, does not care much about the cruise while locking himself up in his private cabin for some drinking, and that certainly frustrates the crew members working under him.
Meanwhile, we get to know a bit about several other guests besides Carl and Yaya. In case of one jolly middle-aged Russian dude accompanied with his wife, he turns out to be a very wealthy guy, and he makes a little crude but amusing joke about his business at one point. Compared to him, an elderly British couple looks more benign in comparison, but, what do you know, their source of wealth is relatively less respectable than that Russian dude’s business. Later in the story, we meet a rather pathetic guy who is eager to get along with a couple of young women at the bar, and he turns out to be quite rich just like many of the guests of the yacht.
After making some sharp points on how many guests on the ship are quite oblivious and insensitive to their privilege over many crew members of the yacht, the movie soon moves onto its most uproarious part. While the captain is reluctantly attending the dinner along with his guests during the following evening, the yacht constantly fluctuates among stormy waves, and some guests naturally begin to suffer seasick. In addition, it seems that there is also some food poisoning problem, and the situation soon gets all the worse along with lots of vomit and diarrhea.
In the next morning, the situation looks like being under control as everyone on the ship tries to start another day of their cruise, but, alas, there comes another unexpected incident which eventually causes the sinking of the yacht. I will not go into details here, but I must tell you that I was quite amused by a little but sweet ironic poetic justice served to a certain couple on the yacht.
During the third act, the movie revolves around several guests who manage to survive and then find themselves stranded ashore in a remote spot. Because none of them does not know any useful skill for survival while not having any food or water, they consequently find themselves depending a lot on a plain cleaner named Abigail (Dolly de Leon), who does not hesitate to take the full control over them as the one who has the power and privilege now.
What follows next is a naughty satire driven by the reversal of class and gender roles. Once they see that they have no choice in their circumstance, the survivors willingly obey to whatever Abigail orders them to do, and we get some laugh as she “domesticates” many of male survivors in the group including Carl. When it becomes quite clear to him that Abigail wants something from Carl in exchange for more food and water, he goes along with that despite his understandable reluctance, and, of course, he soon comes to learn how easy it is to put aside his petty male pride for survival.
During its last 20 minutes, the movie begins to lose some of its comic momentum, and the ending feels anti-climactic compared to what has been so enjoyably developed before that point. At least, the movie is still supported well by its solid main cast members, and Dolly de Leon is an undeniable standout in the bunch, though she was sadly not Oscar-nominated despite her commendable efforts here in this film.
Overall, “Triangle of Sadness”, which recently garnered three Oscar nominations including the one for Best Picture, is engaging enough for recommendation, but I must confess that I am not as enthusiastic about it as others. In my trivial opinion, its level of achievement is somewhere between Östlund’s two previous films “Force Majeure” (2014) and “The Square” (2017), and that will probably help you decide on whether you should check it out or not. It could be more focused and daring, but I had enough good laughs at least, so I will not grumble for now.
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