Triangle of Sadness — behold the ugly rich in new messy wealth satire


Pity the male model. As laid bare in Triangle of Sadness, the erratic new comedy from Ruben Östlund, even success is a gunge tank of indignity. Bookers whisper about your need for Botox; you get paid a fraction of your female peers. Such is the lot of catwalker Carl (Harris Dickinson). In 147 minutes of pouts and postures, Östlund has him say precisely one insightful thing — as if only to highlight the inanity of the rest.

To talk about money is unsexy, Carl is told, having just been left with a bill. For a moment, he pauses, considering the logic by which we do or don’t discuss the power of finance. “Yeah, why is that?” he asks.

A good question. Even a stopped clock, and so on. You could say the same of the whole film, a messy satire about wealth that occasionally uses a scalpel — but more often a scattergun. In his last film, The Square, Östlund teased the art world. Before that he made Force Majeure, male ego skewered in a ski resort. Now Triangle of Sadness takes elements of both, stretches the length and cranks the volume. The location is mostly a luxury yacht on which Carl and girlfriend Yaya have blagged a free trip. The result is a panto of high-end downtime. (Yaya is played by Charlbi Dean, who died this year at 32, a sad shadow across the film. She and Dickinson are both terrific.)

Commerical cruise with bells on: Charlbi Dean and Harris Dickinson

And so we are invited to behold the ugly rich at play, a pan-European 1 per cent. Naturally there is a tasteless Russian tycoon, travelling with wife and girlfriend. (The film was shot before the invasion of Ukraine.) A dull Swedish tech mogul drinks alone. An elderly English couple bemoan the drag on the family business caused by UN regulations against landmines.

You may have noticed a snag. It isn’t just the on-the-nose, cartoonish tone. With the superyachts of Saudi princelings and Silicon Valley CEOs lately the subject of books, exposés and pieces in the New Yorker, it takes a tin ear for the zeitgeist to set the movie at sea and not make it about a lone, Randian billionaire. Instead, Östlund merely gives us a commercial cruise with bells on — the soft option of an ensemble romp.

Still, he does mount a fine, wordless illustration of the brute onboard hierarchy. Guests on deck; the crew in pristine white; then, out of sight of both, the other crew, dark-skinned figures wearing dark blue, their uniform better suited to scrubbing the surfaces.

The moment is short and precise, like all the best things in the film. Östlund has a brilliance for small scenes of deep personal awkwardness: the bickering of a couple overheard by strangers; a professional smile stiffened into a pained rictus. His eye for detail can be excruciating.

You will wish you had more chance to squirm happily. Instead, the film reaches for blunt instruments — as plot device and guiding principle. Dinner is champagne and caviar, a slapstick feast that turns emetic. A Marxist might suspect the director of being a reactionary double agent. (A real guillotine is sharper than this.) And on and on we go: an acid little punchline extends into a whole third act, complete with a ship-wreck, protracted power shift, a moral to the story and still more humiliation for the hapless Carl. Stay for the credits and ask yourself how a film can have 25(!) producers, and not one who points out the film is an hour too long. Next time Östlund stages a revolution, he should start by eating the execs.


In UK cinemas from October 28

Articles You May Like

Stocks making the biggest moves midday: First Republic, FedEx, Nvidia, Bumble & more
Munis firmer in spots, largely ignore UST rally as chaotic week comes to a close
Big changes in the S&P 500 Friday highlight the power of index providers
Guam airport outlook raised by Moody’s
Crypto Fear and Greed Index hits highest level since Bitcoin’s all-time high