Triangle of Sadness

Triangle of Sadness pitches itself as a sophisticated comedy with “biting” satire about elitist attitudes during class wars.  However, the jabs made by writer/director Ruben Östlund are nothing more than the filmmaker taking swings at low-hanging fruit for a ridiculously long runtime;  intercut occasionally by tired attempts to be outrageous to offset an arthouse reputation.

I’m familiar with Östlund’s black comedies.  I’ve seen his Golden Globe nominated Force Majeure. I haven’t seen The Square, although Wylie Writes’ Trevor Chartrand liked it.  I so desperately want the filmmaker to show growth.  In Force Majeure, Östlund takes a fairly straightforward premise that incorporates awkward yet relatable personality flaws to build an initial conflict.  The story started to fall apart when Östlund pushed his sarcasm as far as it can go (and then some) and, by the time the audience is burnt out, he followed up with a surprisingly conventional finale.

The same beats occur in Triangle of Sadness.  After a strong first act that confronts condescending attitudes towards lower class folks, Östlund shifts the focus on making fun of entitled socialites who are embarking on an opulent cruise.  Woody Harrelson is great as an aloof Captain who can’t stand the stuffy company, and there’s an amusing gag about how the passengers believe they are liberating the (literal) working class by allowing them to take a dip in the water.  But otherwise, the movie takes very obvious and unoriginal swings at characters that are so exaggerated, they seem as though they’re satirizing themselves before they even arrive at their dialogue. 

Instead of sarcasm, Östlund makes fools of the upper class by showing them in moments of illness through gross scenes of bathroom humour, and then continues pushing the joke as far as he can to an obnoxious degree.  I was reminded of that bit in issues of People Magazine – “Rich Socialites: they vomit and have diarrhea too!”  Triangle of Sadness cops out by eventually painting itself into a corner, positioning the final third of the movie as a survivalist tale where the rich have to depend on “the help” to live – how original. 

Ruben Östlund think he’s drawing a lot of intelligent opinions on these themes and characters but, whether he knows it or not, Triangle of Sadness is simply rowing behind smarter movies.


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