The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - TRIANGLE OF SADNESS | The Movie Waffler


Two young models join a roster of uber-wealthy passengers on a luxury cruise.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ruben Ostlund

Starring: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Vicki Berlin, Woody Harrelson

triangle of sadness poster

Ruben Ostlund's Triangle of Sadness plays like a mash-up of the themes of the Swedish director's previous two movies. Like 2014's Force Majeure, it's centred around a bickering, holidaying young couple. Where he skewered the art world and its denizens in 2017's The Square, here he takes on a similarly out of touch group – the uber-rich passengers on a luxury cruise (the lavish yacht used for filming was once owned by Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy).

triangle of sadness review

Twentysomething models Carl (a revelatory comic performance from Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean, who sadly passed away following production) have a relationship that the latter views as largely one of convenience (she readily admits her goal is to become a trophy wife) while the former wishes it to become something more substantial. The film's opening act is largely centred around an argument over Yaya's habit of dodging bills, a scuffle that begins in a restaurant and follows the pair back to their hotel room. The sequence is brilliantly written and played, the sort of realistically messy set-to that Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan has become the modern master of in recent years.

As "influencers", Carl and Yaya don't make much money, but they do get a lot of "free stuff," including a trip on the aforementioned luxury yacht. The bickering continues as Carl grows jealous of the hunky crew members Yaya flirts with, and the two spend much of the time mingling with other guests. Their fellow passengers include Dmitry (Zlatko Buric), a Russian oligarch who boasts that he "sells shit (fertiliser)" and likes to quote Reagan and Thatcher when drunk; a disabled German woman (Iris Berben) who can only utter the words "In Den Wolken (In the Clouds)"; an exceptionally dull software magnate (Henrik Dorsin); a Scandinavian Karen (Mia Benson) who insists the ship's sails need cleaning, despite the awkward fact that the ship is fully motorised and thus possesses no sails; and Clementine (Amanda Walker) and Winston (Oliver Ford Davies), a doddery old British couple who made their fortune from manufacturing hand grenades (which later plays into the movie's most laugh out loud moment).

triangle of sadness review

The yacht is home to something of a three-tiered society. The wealthy guests are pampered by an army of glamorous mini-skirted stewardesses while a crew of mostly Asian workers labour below decks, cleaning, maintaining and cooking, while all are overseen by a drunken captain (Woody Harrelson). In the film's third section, this society is flipped on its head when various passengers, staff and labourers find themselves shipwrecked, with the rich folk clueless as to how to survive while Abigail (Dolly de Leon), a Filipina toilet cleaner, assumes the role of de facto leader.

Some have criticised Ostlund for lazily targeting elites, but a) his film isn't as black and white as that, and b) they deserve it. Ostlund isn't simply calling these people out as assholes – some of them come off as rather endearing in their own deluded way – he's using their very status as instruments of comedy. I generally abhor toilet humour, but there's an incredibly constructed sequence in which the guests dine during a raging storm and end up vomiting and defecating all over themselves and each other. What's funny about the scene isn't its crudeness, but the people involved. Like a reverse Salo, it's hilarious to watch all these prim and proper people who obsess over their appearance be degraded in such a way. An extra layer of comedy comes from how the staff attempt to pretend there's nothing crazy about this scenario, continuing to serve fine food while the guests succumb one by one to the fury of the restless sea.

triangle of sadness review

The first two chapters of Ostlund's film are peppered with hilarious vignettes, but things do grind to something of a halt in the final shipwreck sequence. Ostlund never quite mines this scenario for the sort of insight it might provide. With Abigail wielding her newfound power and becoming a cross between Mussolini and Harvey Weinstein (trading pretzels for sex with Carl), Ostlund suggests that it's not so much money that turns people into monsters, but rather currency, whether that's in the form of banknotes, high cheekbones or a stash of pretzels.

Triangle of Sadness
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.