Editors note: Triangle of Sadness is now playing in theaters stateside courtesy of NEON. Below is our review from its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
With Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Ostlund returns with another large-scale satire on capitalism. Though this time around the social commentary takes a back seat to sheer absurdity and humor. From a technical perspective, this is a powerhouse achievement from Ostlund. He and Nicolas Winding Refn are the kings of digital cinematography. They utilize it to create a modern feeling that highlights the satirical elements. Ostlund really ratchets up the energy from his lowkey Force Majuere, which relied more on awkward silences. For two hours and thirty minutes, this movie continuously made me laugh, shocked me, and left me inspired. It went places I never expected. Triangle is in the vein of Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, in that it’s raunchy and absurd, but grounded in an arthouse aesthetic.
Ostlund does not make mainstream cinema. However, this is his most accessible film. It has a genuine three-act structure and does not take itself too seriously. It starts off as a solid examination of the influencer lifestyle, but then winds up in an unexpected location. The character dynamics are ever-evolving, with one couple breaking up and a new one forming, and enemies becoming friends. The social commentary Ostlund is making on capitalism never goes too deep. Honestly, I was relieved to see it not be so preachy, but instead a full-on romp with a sprinkle of commentary on top. The film goes off the deep end about halfway through. It is still able to impressively maintain a level of realism in the midst of absurdity.
Coming out of Ostlund’s previous film, The Square, I found myself so overwhelmed that I had very little to say about it. In Triangle of Sadness, Ostlund turns down the pretentiousness to allow for a more digestible experience. Although, it is not so digestible for the characters who, in the film’s best scene, experience a bout of food poisoning. This extended sequence is the centerpiece of the film and matches the intensity of the ‘monkey man’ sequence in The Square. From this point on, the film reaches heights I’ve rarely seen. It is unbelievably funny and beautifully shot. Some comedies rely on quippy dialogue to elicit laughs, while in Triangle of Sadness, it is Ostlund’s camerawork, editing, and music cues that derive much of the humor. Ostlund has a clear love for techno music. When he cues the techno groove “Marea (We’ve lost dancing)” towards the end, it almost made me cry with joy.
While Ruben Ostlund deserves the credit for this film’s immense success, the film would not be the same without the incredible cast. Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean give star-making performances. Beyond their excellent chemistry, they are extremely good-looking and have amazing comedic timing. Woody Harrelson gives the perfect cameo–I have a feeling Ostlund wrote it with him in mind. He shares the screen with Zlatko Buric in one sequence in which the two of them drunkenly ramble quotes at each other ranging from Marget Thatcher to Karl Marx. It is both insightful and cramp-inducingly hilarious. Dolly De Leon steals the show in the third act. She shakes things up with surprising moments that kept the story from feeling redundant. Sunnyi Melles deserves a mention for her commitment to that centerpiece sequence. Not many actors would go there. Without her, the film would lose out on its funniest moment.
Triangle of Sadness joins the ranks of The Beach Bum, The Player, and Lovers Rock of films that are endlessly rewatchable. Much like those films, Triangle of Sadness is that rare blend of high craft and pure entertainment that is hard to find today. In a time when most films playing Cannes are depressing, it was extremely refreshing to see a full-fledged comedy. It’s the type of movie you want to see with a big crowd. The film guarantees people will either be howling with laughter or walking out. Triangle of Sadness may not be as tightly constructed as The Square, but it feels like Ostlund in peak form. The film is not without its flaws, but, amongst many things, it is that messiness that makes me love Ostlund’s latest so much.
– Jack Schenker (@YUNGOCUPOTIS)
2022 Cannes Film Festival; Ruben Ostlund; Triangle of Sadness movie review