Triangle of Sadness
Oct 19, 2022
Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson
The fashion industry is a tree in which almost all of the branches have bowed to provide low-hanging satirical fruit. Embarrassingly so Triangle of Sadness opens with a joke elaborating that high-end fashion designers have marketing campaigns in which their models appear to look down on their consumer. Oh the irony, that in fact like the internet catchphrase-ification of ‘eat the rich’, Triangle of Sadness feels like it wears class war as fashion, ready to be thrown into the scrap heap as soon as it is no longer hot. It is the £1200 shoe collaboration between someone born with a famous last name and a once affordable streetwear brand, its value denoted not by craft but by a shoddy little ‘x’ between the two brand names. At two-and-a-half-hours long this glitzy gross-out amounts to shockingly little.
The first of three acts introduces the core couple of Carl (Harris Dickinson), a model, and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), his influencer girlfriend. At a restaurant they squabble over who pays the bill, Yaya pretends not to see it arrive at the table which leaves Carl questioning his place in the relationship. The argument overflows into the taxi and back to their hotel, threatening to boil over into something more sinister, Carl’s disbelief leading him into a rant that is as maniacal as it is farcical. This sets the tone of the film - frustrating levels of awkwardness stemming from stubborn adherence to traditional hierarchical social norms.
Act II begins as the couple board a luxury cruise, gifted to them of course, Yaya is an influencer after all. They rub shoulders with the other guests, amongst them an elderly arms-dealing British couple (Amanda Walker & Oliver Ford Davies), a Russian manure salesman (Zlatko Buric) and his wife (Sunnyi Melles), and a lonely code-writer (Henrik Dorsin), generational evolutions of wealth and excess flaunted at any given opportunity. At their beck and call is a crew of willing servants, led by Paula (Vicki Berlin), and motivated by the dangling carrot of a gargantuan tip at the cruise’s conclusion, all committed to their role in the class divide, save perhaps the alcoholic, lapsed-socialist captain (Woody Harrelson). After a series of encounters in which the rich flex their power, testing and humiliating the staff, a storm closes in on the ship. Thus begins, at the Captain’s Dinner, the seasickness and much-advertised vomiting. An elongated joke expanding as far as one guest fighting to project her champagne-infused stomach lining into the toilet bowl as the waves hurl her from one side of the bathroom to the other. As the ship tosses, the tables turn, setting up a third act drowning in schadenfreude as Filipina toilet attendant, Abigail (Dolly De Leon), takes charge.
Triangle of Sadness is ultimately a toothless send-up of the mega-rich that amounts to little more than, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if they had a taste of their own medicine?’. A hollow and cynical portrait of late-stage capitalism that is so removed from reality I’m almost certain that the people it directly targets would in fact enjoy it.