Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Review: Entertaining "TRIANGLE OF SADNESS" is Not as Clever or as Sharp As it Thinks It Is

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 of 2023 (No. 1910) by Leroy Douresseaux

Triangle of Sadness (2022)
Running time:  147 minutes (2 hour, 27 minutes)
MPA – R for language and some sexual content
PRODUCERS:  Philippe Bober and Erik Hemmendorff
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Fredrik Wenzel (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Mikel Cee Karlsson and Rubin Östlund
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Vicki Berlin, Dolly De Leon, Zlatko Buric, Sunnyi Melles, Iris Berben, Amanda Walker, Oliver Ford Davies, Ralph Schicha, Henrik Dorsin, Jean-Christophe Folly, Alicia Eriksson, and Woody Harrelson

Triangle of Sadness is a 2022 satirical film and black comedy from writer-director Ruben Östlund.  It is the Swedish Östlund's first English-language film, and it is an international co-production between four nations:  Sweden, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  The film follows a celebrity couple, who are both fashion models, as they join a doomed luxury cruse for the super-rich.

Triangle of Sadness introduces Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean).  Yaya is a successful fashion model, and Carl is male model, who is not as successful as Yaya.  Yaya expects Carl to pay for their meals, although she makes more money than him, and her ambition is to be a trophy wife.  Yaya is an “influencer,” and she is in a relationship with Carl for the social media engagement it earns them.

Carl and Yaya are invited on a luxury cruise aboard a super-yacht in exchange for its social media promotion.  Among the wealthy guests are the Russian oligarch, Dimitry (Zlatko Buric), and his wife, Vera (Sunnyi Melles), and Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin), a lonely tech millionaire who flirts with Yaya.  Paula (Vicki Berlin), the tightly wound head of the ship's staff, demands that the staff obey the guests' every request, even the absurd ones.  The ship's Captain (Woody Harrelson) will not leave his room and seems to be drunk all the time.  The captain's neglect of his duties, Paula's insistence on placating the super-wealthy guests, and the guests crazy demands culminate in a single disastrous evening.

Eventually, a small group of the yacht's guests, including Carl and Yaya, find themselves on what seems to be a deserted island.  Now, the balance of power has shifted from the wealthy and powerful to a rather skillful cleaning woman, Abigail (Dolly De Leon).  Will the guests adjust to this new status, and how well will they adjust?

There are some fun, outrageous, and outrageously funny material, moments, and scenes in Triangle of Sadness.  The film critiques and mocks the obscenely wealthy, but I think that its strongest points are made when it takes swipes at how some people get rich and famous.  Some are wealthy because they sell things that are destructive to humanity (things used in war), and some are rich and famous … for being rich and famous.  Some people's wealth does not make their lives better, such as the lonely Jarmo.  Some, like the Russian, Dimitry, merely happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right stuff to sell.

For all his film's political commentary and moral lessons, writer-director Ruben Östlund seems to be a tad too mannered.  It's as if he doesn't know that while his film is edgy, he seems to be dulling the sharp edges that would really go after his social and political targets.  Is Östlund saying that the super-rich and famous are obscene and that they need to be brought down to the level of ordinary people in order to regain their humanity?  By the end of the film, it seems that way.

I would recommend Triangle of Sadness (which takes its title from a modeling term used in the film) to fans of foreign movies.  Most movie fans can get a similar message, more or less, from the classic Eddie Murphy-Dan Aykroyd film, Trading Places (1983).  I like Triangle of Sadness because it is a genuinely good film, but it feels like Ruben Östlund left the hardness of its allegories and metaphors on the cutting room floor.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

2023 Academy Awards, USA:  3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober), “Best Original Screenplay” (Ruben Östlund), and “Best Achievement in Directing” (Ruben Östlund)

2023 BAFTA Awards:  3 nominations: “Best Supporting Actress” (Dolly De Leon), “Best Casting” (Pauline Hansson), and “Best Screenplay-Original” (Ruben Östlund)

2023 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture” (Dolly De Leon) 

2022 Cannes Film Festival:  2 wins: “Palme d'Or” (Ruben Östlund) and “CST Artist-Technician Prize” (Andreas Franck, Bent Holm, Jacob Ilgner, and Jonas Rudels)

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