Triangle of Sadness new movies to watch in October

Did Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness deserve the Palme d’Or?

The English-language debut by the Swedish director behind Force Majeure and The Square is heavy on pukey anarchy and lazy class satire.

Triangle of Sadness, as anticipated, is a juicy disaster movie where you get to revel in terrible things happening to the very rich and blindingly privileged. Model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his influencer girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean), after a first act spent interminably quibbling over money, are given tickets (courtesy Yaya’s influencer status) on a “$250-million luxury yacht,” where a series of calamities unfold.

The cruise staff’s masochistic insistence that everyone eats the gelatinous haute cuisine before them during a stormy dinner service devolves into a scene of pukey anarchy that is certainly as revolting as promised and longer than you could possibly imagine, with bodily sounds echoing the sheer grossness of La Grande Bouffe (1973). As you might imagine, the vomit is washed down with champagne, and the camera impressively (and to nauseating effect) careens with the ship as the well-dressed are violently pitched back and forth.

There is a relentlessness to Östlund’s approach, scenes which go on to excruciating length, whether depicting Carl and Yaya’s argument over who pays the bill or the cruise guests falling over themselves as the ship’s raw sewage explodes in giant plumes around them. Yet, while there is some delight in this masochism — gleeful malice in drawing out these scenes — they eventually lag, caught up in their indulgence. 

Echoing the reversal of fortune in Lina Wertmüller’s Swept Away (1974), Triangle features an excellent performance from Dolly De Leon as Abigail, once a toilet cleaner aboard the ship and eventually the only person everyone depends on for survival. Also, as in Swept Away, a self-proclaimed communist (Woody Harrelson as the alcoholic Captain) and a capitalist (Zlatko Buric, playing Dimitry, a man who “sells shit”) have a blunt clash of ideologies, but this is no longer a relevant political dichotomy in 2022. 

The characters are vastly and untouchably smug. Some among them are cooly evil on top of being smug, as in the elder British arms dealers Winston and Clementine (Oliver Ford Davies and Amanda Walker). When we delight in their destruction, we might as well be cheering for the detonation of a pile of Barbies. They lack any credibly human nuance. To truly skewer the powerful is also to make us sympathize with them in some small way – this is what makes Succession so wonderfully perverse and astute. Here Östlund has just batted lazily at some low-hanging class criticism to the occasional barrage of smartphone pings. 

The Orwellian one-liners — e.g. “I command you to enjoy the moment” — are darkly funny, and the third act threatens more nuance and surprise than the previous two (including a plot arc involving a micro-economy of sex-for-pretzels). Still, perhaps the thing about a crowd-pleasing romp about class consciousness is that the exercise can feel a little hollow. The fiasco is spectacular, but it is profoundly cynical and apolitical in tone. Frankly, the surface satire is just not sufficiently funny and the ensuing laughter feels cold and self-congratulatory.

Triangle of Sadness (directed by Ruben Östlund)

Triangle of Sadness opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Oct. 14.


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