TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
(director/writer: Ruben Ostlund; cinematographer: Fredrik Wenzel; editors: Ruben Ostlund/Mikel Cee Karlsson; music: Leslie Ming/Mikkel Maltha; cast: Woody Harrelson (Captain Thomas Smith), Harris Dickinson (Carl), Charlbi Dean (Yaya), Thobias Thorwid (Lewis), Vicki Berlin (Paula), Zlatco Buric (Dimitry), Oliver Ford Davies (Winston), Dolly De Leon (Abigail), Jiannis Moustos (Driver), Iris Berben (Therese), Sunnyi Melles (Vera), Henrik Dorsin (Jarmo), Alicia Eriksson (Alicia, crew member), Timoleon Gketsos (deckhand), Hanna Oldenburg (Yacht Steward), Mia Benson (The sails lady), Amanda Walker (Clementine), Jean-Christophe Folly (Nelson); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Philippe Bober/Erik Hemmendorff; NEON; 2022-Sweden/France/ UK/ Germany/Turkey/Greece-in English)
“An uneven and superficial film, with some of its class-war satires not that funny.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Swedish filmmaker, in his first English language film, Ruben Ostlund (“Force Majeure”/”The Square”), films another of his provocative and in bad taste black comedies. This one wages a full-scale war on capitalism and the upper-classes. The social criticism art-house film never has a flow to it. The madcap film is about an elite yacht party that shows how shallow and inept are the wealthy passengers without their money.
It’s an uneven and superficial film, with some of its class-war satires not that funny. Also the direction was too heavy-handed to be inventive, the attacks on the rich were like shooting ducks in a barrel and its over-the-top premise of mocking the wealthy overstays its welcome when going longer than 2 hours.
The stars are two attractive but argumentative over money issues fashion models, the self-satisfied social media influencer Yava (Charlbi Dean, died after the film wrapped from a lung infection at the age of 32) and the sappy Brit pretty boy Carl (Harris Dickinson), the less successful of the pair of models, Thanks to Yava, the couple have won through social media a free cruise on a luxury yacht.
Other passengers of the 125 aboard include a loudmouth capitalist convert, the Russian fertilizer oligarch, Dimitri (Zlatco Buric), and his pampered wife Vera (Sunnyi Melles); an elderly Brit couple, arms dealers, named Winnie and Clemmie (Oliver Ford Davies & Amanda Walker); Therese (Iris Berben), the German stroke victim, who can only say her husband’s name and repeat the only sentence she can speak; and the lonely software creator millionaire Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin).
The idealistic Marxist cabin-bound captain, the stubborn Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson), is an alcoholic, who is forced out of his cabin by the energetic and cheery head steward Paula (Vicki Berlin) to dine in a feast with the passengers for one night to fulfill his contractual obligation to his bosses. It’s an excessive event taking place on choppy waters–which turns into a surreal Bunuel-like farce when the passengers get seasick and there’s a diarrhea outbreak, and the captain over the intercom debates the Russian over the virtues of capitalism or socialism.
During the storm, pirates capsize the yacht and the only survivors are Carl, Yaya, Dimitry, Therese, Paula, Jarmo, and a ship mechanic (Jean-Christophe Folly). They are marooned on a deserted Greek island, whereby the men take a back-seat to the more resourceful women as they try to survive (reminding us of Lina Wertmuller’s Brit film satire Swept Away (2002). Suddenly thrust into power as the leader, despite her low position on the crew, is the insightful Filippino ‘toilet manager’ (Dolly De Leon), the only survivor with survival skills, who scores handsomely by trading sexual favors for food with ‘pretty boy’ Carl.
We witness how it’s a dog eat dog world out there, and the ones who thrive best in such an environment are those that act like beasts.
The title is derived from the opening scene, at a humiliating casting call for models, as the director utters to Carl that the control of “your triangle of sadness,” the space between your eyes and nose, is what determines how you push either the “smiley” or “grumpy” clothing brands you model.
The gross film is lively mostly because of the snappy performance by Charlbi. Without her elusive character, this film would have probably been a real stinker.
It was somehow the Palme d’Or winner at Cannes.
REVIEWED ON 10/14/2022 GRADE: C+