• Nate Adams

'Triangle of Sadness' review: A smart and hilarious satire that slowly loses steam


Courtesy of Neon

 

About midway through “Triangle of Sadness,” Ruben Ostlund’s wickedly brutal satire about the wealthy elite, there’s without a doubt one of the funniest sequences you’re going to see all year, where a group of pompous, arrogant, rich folk get seasick and yak their brains out abroad a luxury cruise line. Not since “Bridesmaids” has a scene involving deification and vomiting yielded such hilarious results, but from there “Triangle of Sadness” remains stagnant. Split into three sections and running an agonizing 150-minutes, Ostlund, best known for “Force Majeure,” and “The Square,” weaves through numerous scenarios that for the first 90-minutes never let off the gas, but a crucial switch in the final hour coasts on the foundation laid in those opening scenes which crescendos with the dinner party from hell.


That’s not to say when the big flip happens “Triangle of Sadness” loses our attention. On the contrary, Ostlund seems content with seeing where things are steered. It’s a fascinating experiment to watch unfold in real time, but it ultimately leads to a lackluster conclusion guaranteed to divide more than unite. Still, it’s a solid picture with a wealth of talent on display, though it would’ve been much better had the filmmaker manage to port this ship at the 105-minute mark, cutting the fluff and sending the audience out buzzing.


Ostlund begins the proceedings as a film about how close-minded and gender bias the fashion industry is, introducing us to Harris Dickinson’s Carl, a good-looking thirty-something male model trying to find his niche, who is getting teased and reprimanded about his career path; before shifting gears into a dinner quarrel with his influencer girlfriend Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean) about who should pay the bill. It’s an unrelenting twenty minutes that sees Carl and Yaya hurl different rationales on gender and moral codes and keeps building into side splitting shenanigans. Dean and Dickinson are superb during these moments and it’s devastating knowing this will be the former’s last major role as she was on the cusp of having an incredible acting career.


Rather than sort out their relationship qualms, mainly because Yaya needs Charlie for her social media clout, they hop on a cruise for the super-rich where they are both the best looking and least wealthy. Ostlund then sets the stage with a barrage of characters, among them a harmless British couple named Winston and Clementine who run, of all things, a grenade empire; a persnickety woman only interested in complaining about how dirty the sails are; and a Russian manure oligarch played by Zlatko Buric. Woody Harrelson is also having a blast in a brief role as the ship’s captain dealing with some alcoholism issues and the genius who decided having a lavish seafood dinner during a major storm was a good idea.


Ostlund creates a swirl of memorable scenes filled with discontent and awkward discomfort that’ll make you claw your arm rest. One involves a stubborn woman’s (Sunnyi Melles) determination to get the entire cruise staff to swim despite rules stated against it. Instead of telling the woman it’s not allowed and saying “no,” the staff accommodates her wishes and suddenly nobody is working. Just swimming. There are other moments like that sprinkled throughout “Tringle of Sadness” as Ostlund deconstructs how society treats those with money and those without and it’s mostly smooth sailing until things tip slightly overboard in the latter stretch. 


Make sure to grab a barf bag.


Grade: B


TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is now playing in select theaters and will expand throughout the coming weeks.