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Triangle of Sadness

The Palme D’Or winner is rather shallow in its narrative

Ruben Ostlund has always been a director fascinated with contradictions and hypocrites. Such was his view of masculinity and the family structure in his brilliant Force Majeure (2014), or his look into the elitist art world with the indulgent The Square (2017). The Swedish director now turns his eyes on the wealthy with his latest, this year’s Palm D’Or Winner at Cannes, Triangle of Sadness (2022).

Triangle of Sadness revolves around the clients and crew of a luxury yacht. Here we find disparate characters such as the modeling couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), the Russian oligarch Dimitry (Zlatko Buric), the harried ship director Paula (Vicki Berlin), or cleaning lady Abigail (Dolly De Leon). However, as the trip ensues things soon begin to go sideways.

Ostlund crafts a rather intriguing set-up and brings forth some thought-provoking situations and observations on human nature, especially in the third act. One of the opening scenes curiously takes on the discomfort that many have when talking about money, centered around who gets to pay a restaurant tab. Ostlund retains his dark humor and unforgiving lens which showcases characters at their most vulnerable. Ostlund especially plays with juxtaposing images and scenes, showing a clear disparaging of the less-priviledged, while viewers see an inspirational video about how “we are all equal.”

Triangle of Sadness is filled with intriguing and funny scenes, and yet Ostlund does struggle to string together an actual plot out of them. A film does not always need a coherent plot, such was the point being made by surrealists in the 1920s and beyond, yet Ostlund is not going for that style and thus orphans his sequences of fluidity. He lingers too long on scenes whose point has already been made, but which Ostlund wants to redundantly repeat. Because of a lack of real story or character arcs, we are simply left with repetitive metaphors and social commentary, which while fascinating at first, try our impatience after being overexplained. This sadly slows Triangle of Sadness in the backend of each act, where novelty has worn off and you can’t see the narrative moving along.

In many ways, Triangle of Sadness might remind viewers of Don’t Look Up (2021), in its curious stitching of socially conscious and relevant sequences, but whose lack of clear story structure forces it to become a redundant echo chamber. This blunts the film’s condemnation of corrupting wealth and its view of human nature, but allows it to retain a comedic entertaining value such as Adam McKay’s film.

Much of Triangle of Sadness is enhanced by a rather strong cast of relative unknowns, Woody Harrelson as the ship’s captain being the only Hollywood face. Dickinson is impressive yet again after his brilliant breakout role in Beach Rats (2017), likewise Buric is winning as the jolly capitalistic Dimitry, but the show is basically stolen in the third act by De Leon, who takes over the film with confidence and spunk and carries it through to its inevitable finale.

In the end, Triangle of Sadness is a comedic and ruthless look at the wealth and power. Ostlund crafts some truly insightful situations, but becomes lost in his efforts to string together a comprehensive narrative. As such, Triangle of Sadness is an intriguing if rather shallow social commentary.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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