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Triangle of Sadness

By Andy Howell | September 17, 2022

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Having directed Force Majeure and The Square, winners of all kinds of prizes, particularly at Cannes, you might think of writer-director Ruben Östlund as “a serious filmmaker.” The fact that his new film is titled Triangle of Sadness and won the Palme d’Or would only seem to reinforce this view. Well, the film is hands-down one of the year’s best movies. Yes, it is important, but it’s important because it is funny and serious. It starts as a half-serious Zoolander, devolving into an absurdist Titanic, before becoming a deranged Gilligan’s Island, deftly weaving together tragedy, comedy, and farce. Truth be told, no description can prepare you for this absolutely singular vision.

In a straightforward narrative, you’d start with a protagonist, establish their motivations, then create drama around them. Their actions and words illuminating who they are through conflict, then have them change via some dynamic event and emerge different. Triangle of Sadness subverts most of these expectations. If there is a protagonist, you might say it is Carl (Harris Dickinson), a male model, who, tellingly, we have trouble picking out of a crowd in the opening scene of models trying to sell their looks for money.

“…the young, beautiful couple is on a cruise for the super-rich, where we meet a cascade of ever-more unredeemable characters…”

We’re soon introduced to his girlfriend, Yaya (Charlbi Dean, who tragically passed away after filming), as she tries to manipulate Carl over the bill at a restaurant. What follows is a well-crafted couple’s argument that thoroughly illustrates each character. It is more dramatic than funny, so one might think we’re in for a humorless film. But then things take a turn.

Before long, the young, beautiful couple is on a cruise for the super-rich, where we meet a cascade of ever-more unredeemable characters, including a Russian capitalist, a couple who are weapons manufacturers, a rich man who has sold his company, and a continuously drunken Captain (Woody Harrelson). Things do not go well on the cruise, whether it is the romantically unlucky being mocked, the Captain failing to fulfill his duties, or the rich failing to understand the work requirements of the crew. Things steadily escalate until the night of the “Captain’s dinner,” which ends in a spectacular climax, even though this only marks approximately the first half of Triangle of Sadness. But, this beginning hour and ten minutes show that no one is safe from the director’s withering gaze.

Triangle of Sadness (2022)

Directed and Written: Ruben Östlund

Starring: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson, Thobias Thorwid, Dolly De Leon, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

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"…comedy can't really be described, it must be experienced"

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