REVIEW: ‘Triangle of Sadness’ succeeds on strong satire, despite plot issues

One would have always guessed a movie set on a ship with “triangle” in the title would take place in the Bermuda Triangle, but here we are.

“Triangle of Sadness” instead takes place in less paranormal, but still dangerous waters. The film centers on a successful couple, the model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and influencer Yaya (Charibi Dean) who are invited aboard a luxurious superyacht.

They’re joined by many other wealthy individuals who are there to enjoy all of the fancy amenities, as well as the ship’s many staff members. Most of the staff seems fairly dedicated to their job, except the heavy-drinking captain (Woody Harrelson). This ends up becoming a bit of an issue when the yacht runs into heavy seas with big waves.

A good portion of “Triangle of Sadness” takes place on the yacht, but not the whole film. The yacht experience is mostly in the film’s second act, while the first and third portions have the characters elsewhere. While each of the film’s segments have merit, there’s no doubt that “Sadness” absolutely peaks while the characters are on the ship.

There’s a lot happening on the yacht that really elevates the film. Notably, the exploration of the ship’s hierarchy. The hierarchy featured has the wealthy guests at the top, followed by those working on the bridge, then the wait staff, and finally the cleaning staff.

The film satirizes that hierarchy, especially taking aim at how out-of-touch the super rich are during their cruise. On top of an interesting look at the different classes, even among the staff themselves, the movie also takes some humorous jabs at the concept of influencers, mocking the more shallow elements of the career social media professionals have.

Courtesy Neon

Even more attention-grabbing during the segment on the yacht, though, is a sequence where the ship hits some really rough waters. During that time, many of the patrons get violently sick, things start breaking, all while the captain and a wealthy Russia share communist and capitalist platitudes.

It’s a raucous set of scenes that can get a bit much considering how gross the whole thing gets. Yet seeing all of the super-rich passengers who were earlier being unfriendly to the staff rolling around and throwing up, all while there’s this friendly debate taking place about economic systems, is really entertaining, both from the sight gags and the conversation in the background.

The issue is the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to the second act on the yacht. There are definitely some interesting ideas at play in these sections, such as how money plays a part in gender roles and how power can corrupt even without an actual economic system when some of the characters are stranded on an island.

Yet the first and third acts never rise to the same level as the moments in the middle, and these segments feel more scattered. Plot-wise, the movie starts to meander a bit. The film’s concept gets stretched beyond its limits because of its runtime, too.

Ruben Östlund wrote and directed a sharp film that cuts a lot of issues related to wealth, class and social roles. However, the film’s plotting does cause issues. The three acts seem a bit disjointed, the first and third aren’t as tightly executed as the second, and the movie starts to run out of steam trying to fill its two-and-a-half-hour length. 3.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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