Two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund makes his English-language feature debut with Triangle of Sadness, which takes a bleak and unflinchingly hilarious look at materialism and the absurd lengths capitalists will go to in preserving the way of life they’ve gotten so used to.
Rising star Harris Dickinson (The King’s Man, See How They Run) stars as Carl, a model who is in a “fame-based relationship” with fellow model Yaya (played by Charlbi Dean, who tragically passed away in August, a mere three months after the film’s Cannes premiere). A contest win leads them to embark on a superyacht luxury cruise, which goes off the rails quicker than you can say “What could possibly go wrong?!”
As one might expect, Triangle of Sadness is nowhere near subtle with its messages. Everything has a point — the repeating motif of buzzing flies, the lavish production design, and the incessant use of the cell phone camera shutter sound effect, among pretty much everything else — which is impressive, to say the least. Though that care on the production side is present throughout the entire film, that effort becomes more noticeable as the events progress, eventually escalating to the ridiculous and absurd heights I expected from a two-and-a-half hour awards contender.
Is Triangle of Sadness this year’s Parasite? Well, you don’t win the Palme d’Or for nothing, but it seems like these days you’re most likely to win if you’re a movie about how terrible and crazy rich people can be — especially when they come into direct conflict with those of a lower tax bracket. It can be tough to categorize exactly what the film’s attitude towards its characters is, but what’s crystal clear is that they don’t deserve salvation. It rejects capitalism nor socialism, but doesn’t endorse them either, giving us a statement beyond the par-for-the-course conclusion that “rich people are awful.” Despite how viscerally uncomfortable and explicitly gross it can get, that’s the way the world works…and we all know how difficult that is to change.
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