Writer/director Ruben Östland is known for finding humor in the uncomfortable. Normally known for cringy dialogue and characters with questionable morals, his latest release Triangle of Sadness is the visual embodiment of all the director holds dear.
The plot is split into three parts; the first chronicles the codependent and dysfunctional relationship of Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean), young models and influencers. Carl, whose career is less established than his girlfriend’s, complains about covering the dinner bill after Yaya’s fashion show. With Carl unwilling to take the bill again, the issue dissolves into a fight. It’s this early on where we start to see Östland’s sense of humor shine through.
Dickinson perfectly executes Östland’s timing, knowing exactly when to take a comedic beat or throw an understate confused look. He knows how to take things to the comedic line without crossing over. Dean is photographed beautifully, always with a bitchy side showing underneath.
Things pick up in Part II, where the couple takes a free cruise vacation, paid for by one of their advertisers. Östland plays with class dynamics, contrasting how the white passengers and crew live differently than the people of color working the more menial jobs. Antics heighten as we meet the constantly drunk Captain (Woody Harrelson) and an eclectic group of passengers. Unlike Carl and Yaya, money is no issue for them.
It’s here where Triangle of Sadness starts to raise the stakes, adding a level of greed and discussion about modern capitalism not seen recently in modern cinema. Östland demonstrates his disgust for our current society by literally showing how much shit he thinks people are full of. I won’t go into detail but in a long scene filled with body fluids, the film reaches new levels of absurdity, including the boat being stranded on an island.
If Part II was asking the question about capitalism, then Part III answers it in the form of Dolly de Leon’s performance. She plays Abigail, an above-middle-aged cleaner who we have not seen before her appearance on the island. A stand-out among a strong ensemble cast, de Leon is commanding and hysterical, taking charge as the only capable survivor among the privileged guests.
Triangle of Sadness does have a pacing issue and, like most movies, is about 20 minutes too long. But how Östland gets his point across is not only effective but hilarious. Once again, the Swedish writer and director hits the nail on the head and creates a brilliant satire for our time.
Triangle of Sadness is playing in theaters on Oct. 21.