Film Review: Triangle of Sadness

By Matthew Moorcroft

Strong Recommendation

  • Directed by Ruben Östlund
  • Starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Woody Harrelson
  • R

I’ll give Ruben Östlund this, he certainly knows how to be the center of attention in the room at all times.

After years and years of being a Cannes darling – including with this film – Triangle of Sadness is the first time Östlund really seems have hit something of the mainstream, letting himself fully loose on audiences with his unique brand of scathing satire. And it’s not surprising as to why; honestly Östlund making it to mainstream was bound to happen at some point, with interest in international cinema at an all time high and Triangle of Sadness‘ nature of being his first foray into English language territory. It’s meant to be seen if that exactly translates into a lasting appeal, though, as Triangle of Sadness is Östlund almost entirely unleashed without any breaks.

Yes, despite the language change, Triangle of Sadness is the most Ruben Östlund Ruben Östlund has ever been, for better and for worse – though mostly for the better. You won’t find a funnier picture in 2022 then this one with all of it’s clever wordplay, ridiculous setups, and gross out gags that threaten to overwhelm the genuinely intelligent satire at play here. For all Östlund’s pontification about the rich, the wealthy, and the powerful, this is ultimately a crowd pleaser comedy (albeit a dark one) and it will surely satisfy audiences looking for a hilarious time.

But for audiences that here for an Östlund film, they will also, happily, find it here. While the film ostensibly targets the aforementioned rich and wealthy, it clearly has it’s interests more targeted at power structures and asking the question of who exactly has that power? Turns out the answer is “whoever has the food” which, by an large, is a simple answer but Östlund gets a lot of mileage out of it. And there is a lot of discussions about food in regard to money here – the film opens with a 20 minute discussion about a cheque at a restaurant, the middle section is a laugh riot of vomiting due to food poisoning, and the film’s big twist involves the literal fight for survival for, you guess it, good rations. In the end, regardless of money, it comes down to base human instincts, so why bother with all of these systems of capitalism to begin with?

It’s pretty broad by the end, all things considered – the next Parasite this is not, which was far more pointed and clever in it’s commentary. This isn’t necessarily a criticism as it’s more an observation however, as Triangle of Sadness mostly keeps things purposefully broad as to make sure it gets it’s points across. It’s large cast of idiots – outside of an intelligent and opportunistic Dolly le Leon who walks away as the clear MVP of the film, as well as “done with your shit” Marxist captain Woody Harrelson – are as clueless about the world as you can get, and seeing them put through the ringer and cruelty is a bunch of fun. Östlund shoots the film with a sharp eye and a dynamic camera well, so you never know where it’s going to pan over but you know for a fact it’s going to be to something nasty and disgusting.

And yeah, I do find it relatively hilarious that an eventual Palme D’Or winner was this vulgar in some of it’s gross-out gags. They definitely aren’t going to be for everybody, but as somebody who finds enjoyment in the gag comedies of the late 90s there is a lot of laughs to be had here, including one of the absolute funniest stretches of film I have seen in a very long time. This is definitely a movie to be seen with a large crowd or a group of friends if possible – a theater comedy through and through.

Is Triangle of Sadness going to be one of the best of the year? Your mileage will vary on that, but for my money it’s at least one of the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater this past year. It’s audacious, hilarious, thought-provoking, interesting, well made, supremely acted, and most of all, it has a Refused needle drop in it which is just sublime. Great movie!

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