Cannes 2022 Review: TRIANGLE OF SADNESS, Delicious Chaos
Ruben Östlund's new comedy/drama stars Woody Harrelson, Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean.
"We’re all equals!” insists an elderly bourgeois passenger of a luxury cruise ship that relentlessly caters to every whim of the fabulously rich.
She’s speaking with a crew member put in the uncomfortable position of having to tell a guest, to whom you don’t say no, that it is not possible for her to join her in the hot tub in order to crash down the arbitrary walls of classicism separating them in the spirit of fun! But, if a guest’s request is physically possible, then even if it requires the entire crew to drop their preparations for the illustrious captain’s dinner to slide down a water slide, then mandatory fun will be had.
This is just one of the countless delicious scenarios Ruben Östlund subjects his wealthy ensemble to in his latest shit-cuttingly honest look into the infuriating nature of our species in all its hypocrisy and preachy double standards. Östlund begins his latest journey into the dynamics of power and transaction in the world of fashion modeling, where we learn that one’s ‘triangle of sadness’ refers to the sometimes melancholy space between the steely eyes and nose of a model. It is recommended to one of our central protagonists that he considers surgically correcting his triangle.
In the film’s first act we meet a young and beautiful influencer couple whose romantic relationship is itself a transaction. They look good together and are accomplices in their joint projection of fabulosity to the world. In today’s society, those blessed with physical beauty, who in the past could have earned healthy livings as walking advertisements, are today paid, not with money, but with exposure and swag. Nevertheless, their good looks are indeed a potent currency in a society that values such things.
This month it has landed this couple on an opulent cruise amidst the one-percenters of the world. From masters of war to kings of shit (fertilizer), this is a class of elites whose worship of money goes unspoken and generally shrugged off as insignificant.
In Bukowski’s words, “Money is like sex. It seems much more important when you don't have any.” Below the deck (line), we have a group with a very different, but still incredibly prevalent sense of money-worship. Before the crew begin receiving their distinguished guests, their team captain leads them all in a pep talk that descends into group chants for “Money! Money!! Money!!!”
I won't spoil where Östlund takes the film from here, other than that after establishing the rules of the game, our ensemble is thoroughly tested in a way that would make Bunuel blush and Renoir wretch before the whole damn system is thrown into chaos, where we delight in watching the psychologies of it all play out in stark essence.
The performances of the players are, from top to bottom, infectious. When characters are this well written, casting is of utmost importance, but Östlund never ceases to find the faces and spirits necessary to realize his situations to their fullest. Watching the ways in which their behaviors change as the comfort of their circumstances are stripped away is one of the great joys that has come to define his filmography. And while it wouldn’t necessarily have occurred to me that Woody Harrelson would be the perfect addition to the Östlund canon, the proof is in the pudding.
With a new shape from which to draw inspiration, Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness is yet another masterstroke of social horror that is no less refreshing than his squirm-inducing contributions to date. This time he doesn’t just rock the boat of social standing, he pulverizes it. And it is a sheer delight. Society deserves Ruben Östlund.