What happens when a truly equalizing event happens? Ruben Östlund certainly seems to have something grimy, nihilistic, and bleakly funny in mind. Triangle of Sadness is a whirlwind of a movie with a punk rock ethos — it doesn’t care if you’re squirming in your seat because it has some points to make, no matter how crassly it does. Director Östlund’s latest work is always one-upping itself and pushing the audience along the way, with one gross-out sequence in particular that turns Triangle from a straightforward class commentary to a full-on middle finger at the expense of the rich and powerful.
The story of a luxury yacht trip run amok, Triangle is broken up into several parts. The first chronicles the barely-there relationship of Carl (Harris Dickinson, here a perfect, shallow pretty boy) and Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean, who does wonderful work in this). The pair is a conventionally attractive influencer-model pairing and their relationship does well for their Instagram followings and thus, their business. No matter how good they look on each other’s ‘gram, the movie goes to great lengths to show us that even here, amongst beautiful and assuredly well-off people, there are class tensions to be mined for the cringiest movie dinner date this year.
Eventually, we follow the pair onto the yacht, but get to learn about the passengers and crew members on board as well, learning the hierarchy of the ship. Then, all hell breaks loose after some strong tides, and boozy dining transforms the sterile, luxe ship into a vomit and diarrhea-drenched nightmare. Here, the rich eat shit but also slip, slide, and fumble helplessly in it too. From here on out, the movie takes a turn and throws a handful of passengers into a stranded island scenario, where they all realize they can’t handle basic survival. All except for Abigail (Dolly de Leon), the former head of the cleaning staff on the ship who makes it clear that since she has the experience, she should be in charge.
Certainly, Triangle is not interested in subtlety. Your mileage may vary with this kind of storytelling and usually, it can come off as a bit much, but under the circumstances, the heightened and blunt tone works. Thanks to whip-smart writing, darkly playful callbacks, and a powerhouse performance from de Leon as Abigail, the movie holds together perfectly. De Leon steals the movie, and rightfully so. Abigail wields her new power with ease, and confidence, satisfied that finally, she’s getting the respect she should have gotten. Even if we’re all not sure how long her reign will last, it soon becomes clear that she might be willing to throw away her humanity for this taste of power. It’s a performance that blew me away, and it would be a shame if she was left out of the awards season conversation.
There’s much more to enjoy here, too. The dark delights of this movie can be found in its soundtrack (a mix of dance and punk), other performances, shot set-ups and cinematography, and the bold way it’s trying to talk about power, class, and gender. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, even if “power” is simply access to a pack of salted pretzels.
'Triangle of Sadness' is a dark delight that has plenty to say on the state of the world we live in.