Triangle of Sadness Is a Slow, Subtle Satire With a Sharp Edge
Since its debut last year, Triangle of Sadness has been a leading contender throughout various awards circuits, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. At a glance, its subject material covers familiar ground as last year’s Glass Onion, The Menu, two seasons of The White Lotus and more. So, could it deliver anything new that wasn’t already covered before? Yes, it does, and it does so gloriously.
The film primarily follows model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and influencer Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean) as they navigate their troubled relationship aboard a luxury cruise surrounded by wealthy guests, a grumpy captain and, of course, a pirate attack! It’s hard to boil down what happens in this movie to a two-line synopsis, though that’s about as close as I could do. Being a dark satire, it’s much less focused on an overarching plot, instead delivering entertainment through the multiple clashes between its crazy characters.
Triangle of Sadness has much to show and say about many topics, including societal class structure, communism vs capitalism, power dynamics, financial inequality and more. That’s a lot to tackle, though the film’s 147-minute runtime, at an occasionally frustratingly slow pace, has enough breathing room to cover it fairly well.
Divided into 3 acts, each focusing on specific aspects it wants to observe and comment on, the film slowly opens us up to more characters and ideas than I expected. The first 30 minutes are exclusively building on Carl and Maya’s relationship, culminating in the introduction of the Yatch in act 2. Woody Harrelson doesn’t even enter the frame until about an hour in, and the film’s true MVP, Abigail (Dolly de Leon), isn’t introduced until act 3, the longest one.
I’m a fan of subtle comedy, but I’m also a fan of batshit crazy absurdity, and the film manages to walk the fine line with plenty of gags and sharp writing that lets you think about the joke after laughing at it. Östlund has a sharp eye, knowing precisely what story beats he wants to hit and how, and Fredrik Wenzel’s camera work shines profusely in Act 2, grounded in the one thing that isn’t putting on a show like its inhabitants — the yacht, fixated on its guests like an invisible hawk.
There’s a looming sense of dread as our characters manage to live through an increasingly difficult night on the high seas, with a payoff culminating in one of the biggest laughs I’ve had at the movies recently. Equally sharp is the script, with Woody Harrelson and Zlatko Buric trading Twain and Marx’s quotes off each other, the result of which is something I’d pay good money to consume as its own podcast. It’s the uncomfortable exchanges where the film excels in delivering laughs at the plight of the misery these characters are facing. Yet, I never once had the thought that they’re speaking dialogue written for a film, which I can’t say the same for something like Glass Onion.
Of course, with the film running as long it does, it starts to lose steam towards the end with a prolonged plotline that doesn’t quite pack the punch it needs. While it includes one of my favourite needle drops in recent memory, its ending leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, it’s a film with much to say, but only if you’re willing to listen. If not, then its numerous gags will only carry you so far.
Triangle of Sadness cuts deep with its commentary on class structures without being overt about its intentions and with Ruben Östlund’s smart direction, turning out to be an entertaining watch.
Distributed by Impact Films, Triangle of Sadness is now playing in Indian cinemas.
Originally published at https://thescreenzone.com on March 3, 2022. You can also support The Screen Zone by subscribing to our YouTube channel, where we publish video game and movie reviews in video format.