Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness is a hilariously tragic social commentary like I’ve never seen before. In three acts, it centers on a young couple of British models, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean). The opening scene shows us male models in a documentary setting, being interviewed and asked among many questions, how they feel about earning 1/3 as much as female models. This disparity is illustrated further when Carl and Yaya argue over who should pick up the check at dinner. This is part 1.
Part 2 takes place on the yacht. A luxury cruise yacht for maybe two dozen ultra rich guests. It seems Yaya scored a place on this yacht for free as part of her instagram-model influencer gig (she is mostly paid in free stuff). She, and other ladies, make sure their partner takes lots of pictures on the picturesque sundeck. Other guests include Dimitri (Zlatko Burić) a Russian man who proudly claims “I sell shit”, Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin) a timid and lonely middle aged tech genius, Therese (Iris Berben) a woman who suffered a stroke and can only say “In Den Wolken,” and a kind elderly British couple who got rich selling bombs.
There seems to be more staff than guests on this yacht, it takes a lot of manpower to keep the boat a float and the guests happy, but a majority of them are kept out of sight and out of mind. It’s a very upstairs/downstairs situation. That is until one of the rich Russian ladies gets drunk and insists that all the staff go down the water slide. Her request is begrudgingly fulfilled and ends up spoiling the food and setting the Captain’s Dinner back half an hour. What perfect timing! That’s just when the ship hits some rough waters and makes all the guests waiting for and dining on rancid octopus sea sick.
The Captain’s Dinner scene is the funniest scene all Oscar season! At least I think so. Fair warning, there is a lot of vomiting. So much vomiting! Like the rocking of the boat (expertly visually depicted!), the vomiting starts slow and builds and spreads until it is out of control. At the start of dinner, everyone is dressed in their fanciest clothes and jewels trying to keep composure as the boat rocks and the chandelier shakes. Around the room, one at a time, people start to gag and belch as they wait for food or choke down fancy rancid seafood. Soon, vomit is splattering everywhere and the only ones holding their meals down are the staff, the Russian who sells shit and the captain (Woody Harrelson) who ate a cheeseburger and fries instead of the octopus. Together they get drunk and start reading quotes from Marx and other philosophers over the intercom. Everyone is stuck listening to their drunken banter while they get sick. If I could distill this film down to a single image, it would be when one woman is trying to hold onto the toilet but ends up sliding around on her bathroom floor covered in her own shit and vomit while wearing her finest jewelry.
Part 3 is definitely a spoiler, so go watch Triangle of Sadness (it’s on Hulu and to rent on Prime!) and come back when you’re ready. You ready? Part 3 is entitled The Island. The morning after the captain’s dinner, the ship is attacked by pirates (probably because the whole crew was cleaning puke) and ends up bombed and sunk. Only nine people survive and make it to the island, including Carl, Yaya, Dimitri, Therese, Jarmo, and Abigail (Dolly de Leon) the toilet manager on the yacht. But the pecking order completely unravels on the island. The rich have no survival skills. What good is being rich or beautiful when you’re marooned on an island? In Carl’s case what good is your masculinity when you’re unskilled and have nothing to offer but your good looks? Abigail quickly becomes the leader because she’s the only one who knows how to fish, prepare food or make a fire. And she takes pretty boy Carl as her prize.
Triangle of Sadness is nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture and best original screenplay. Ruben Östlund is nominated for best director, his first nomination.
There is so much to say about Triangle of Sadness, I could go on about it all day. And I have, my husband has had a hell of a week dealing with me. I love the social commentary about classism, sexism, socialism and communism. So many isms! I love how flawlessly pulled off the boat rocking is and how it started to make me seasick on my own couch. I love how society flips on the island and Abigail creates a matriarchy. And I love all the puke! I mean seriously, Östlund took a huge risk there, committed to it and cranked that shit up to eleven and it worked. Thank you for a fantastic movie and the greatest puke scene in Oscar history!
“Winston, look. Isn’t this one of ours?”