Ruben Östlund’s satire Triangle of Sadness is divided into three parts. Only the concluding one feels right and you have to wade through a sea of spew and poo to get to that material. It tackles familiar themes that are handled in an unsubtle manner. They include the divide between the haves and the have nots, materialistic obsession, the never ending search for Likes, and the fact that you can’t eat just one pretzel stick.
It begins with a couple that’s hardly a model of stability. We meet them while arguing over a pricey restaurant bill. Some of the tension stems from them both being models. Carl (Harris Dickinson) still has to audition while Yaya (Charlbi Dean) is given free rein and costless trips due to her online popularity. One of those perks is boarding a fancy yacht filled with rich folks with filthy morals.
The schooner’s staff is instructed to never say no to its passengers no matter how outlandish their requests may be. The ship’s Captain (Woody Harrelson) drunkenly stows himself in his cabin to avoid them while the rest of the crew don’t have the luxury. In addition to Carl and Yaya, there’s Russian fertilizer magnate Dimitry (Zlatko Burić) and his wife and mistress and a sweet seeming old couple (Oliver Ford Davies and Amanda Walker) who made their fortune in grenades.
A storm is coming just in time for the Captain’s Dinner which finally gets said Captain out and about. The motion of the ocean leads to all manners of leakage in a gross out sequence that might make you gag too.
The final act occurs on an island with a smaller crew of returning cast. That’s when we’re introduced to Abigail (Dolly De Leon), who served as toilet manager on the boat (a job made even worse by recent events). Faced with a Cast Away type of situation, she’s the only one who has what it takes to be a survivor.
De Leon is a breath of fresh air when it is sorely needed in Östlund’s screenplay. She’s by far the most captivating character in the script coupled with the best performance. The prior interplay between Harrelson’s Marxist American and Burić’s Russian capitalist is tiresome. Carl and Yaya’s strained romance is not worth the hearts.
Abigail’s shifting of the power dynamic vs. her former employers (and basically dictators) would have made, I suspect, a fascinating movie. For the amount of time when that’s what Triangle is about, it is. The two chapters that precede it are shakier.
**1/2 (out of four)