Movie Review: Triangle of Sadness

“Triangle of Sadness” refers to the small triangular space where your nose meets your forehead, the epicentre of facial expression and emotion. Or just a good place to clutch when you’ve got a splitting headache. Balancing precariously between happiness and sadness, it’s as if Östlund aligned this with the Bermuda Triangle when it comes to storytelling, using the word “cringetastic” as a true north.

Starting with a group of male models, the satirical and political undertone of this outrageous comedy drama is quickly established, poking fun at the profession’s standing whilst using it as a segue into the upstairs-downstairs political hierarchy of a cruise ship. Enjoying the same privileges as its super-rich guests, a fashion model celebrity couple serve as the audience’s gateway, caught somewhere between the elite guests, the crew, the staff and the cleaners as influencers.

Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean have palpable chemistry and while their couple’s jousting makes way for broader ensemble comedy drama, it’s always reassuring to have them around. Then, there’s Woody Harrelson and Zlatko Buric’s unconventional bromance, which does add to the fun as the ship’s “Captain Haddock” and a man who’s made a fortune selling… well, a byproduct. A wonderful showcase for South Africa’s Charlbi Dean as Yaya, it’s also unfortunately her last film role.

There’s a strong dose of schadenfreude to the zany comedy of Triangle of Sadness, immersing itself in the epitome of leisure luxury lifestyles only to poke fun with role reversals. Östlund wanted to capture the awkward, petty and sheepish moments that life throws at us, creating scenes and dialogue rarely seen or heard in movies these days. Adopting a borderline comic book take on cruise ship life, the caricatures abound with a few moments verging on Looney Tunes. Choosing pithy 90s pop tunes, the peppy soundtrack’s stark contrast echoes the underlying surreal and allegorical ambitions.

triangle of sadness

“I see you.”

Östlund isn’t quite trolling his audience, but does take delight in subverting expectations and subjecting viewers to some extreme scenes, that while amusing based on the victims, does take the long way round. Trying to constantly recalibrate for uncomfortable comedy while telling a coherent story does take some doing and its Östlund’s maverick scripting that sways off course just like its ocean liner. While Triangle of Sadness doesn’t always hit the sweet spot, there are enough masterfully orchestrated and unforgettable moments to sustain it.

A colourful, elegant, entertaining and bold paradox of a film, Triangle of Sadness is an adventurous arthouse comedy that’s content to taunt you with its brazen and prickly mix of awkward laughs and political satire. Fair warning though, one divisive scene will possibly leave a bad taste in the mouth, especially those who are easily offended or queasy, but becomes overplayed to the point of extended metaphor. Leaving on a haunting and poignant note, it’s sure to stoke up some interesting conversations after the credits roll.

The bottom line: Zany