By Ashley Teresa
8th August 2022

Hot off the Cannes circuit, Palme d'Or winner 'Triangle of Sadness' has its work cut out to win audiences over, and despite some big caveats, it successfully gets there as a clever but overlong skewering of the filthy rich.

Directed by Ruben Östlund, a now two-time Palme d'Or winner thanks to this film, 'Triangle of Sadness' centres on model Carl (Harris Dickinson, 'Where the Crawdads Sing') and his influencer girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean, TV's 'Black Lightning') as they venture on an all-expenses paid yacht cruise – "she gets most things for free, actually," Carl explains to a fellow passenger. As we soon see, nothing affects this top 1%, not even the weapons artillery some of the passengers have built their empires off the back of. The manager of the cruise, Therese (Iris Berben, 'Eddie the Eagle'), works furiously to ensure the experience is a smooth one for both staff and guests – who would want to piss off the rich, anyway? - but even she is unprepared for the hurdles the trip will face, including (but not limited to) the reclusive captain of the ship (a hilarious Woody Harrelson, 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage'). I’ll keep the details of the game-changing captain’s dinner scarce, but what begins as a witty observational comedy soon shows its bigger, slightly messier hand as the film dives into more absurdist and satirical humour to upend the myopic cruisers, both literally and figuratively.

It’s always difficult to take satire about the rich – especially when it’s made by the very people within that tax bracket – without a salt grain so big it could cause a stroke. Especially given how talented of a director Östlund is, it’s shocking that 'Triangle of Sadness' takes so long to get to its point... only then to continue repeating it for another 45 minutes. It’s endlessly repetitive, which in the end dilutes the power of the film’s razor-sharp satire. When it's firing on all cylinders, it's fantastic – the film's first big scene with Colin and Yaya arguing over a dinner bill is particularly pointed – but there are far too many dips into self-indulgent, "isn’t-it-so-funny-to-laugh-at-rich-people-suffering?" territory. To its credit, once a certain body fluid starts to freely spill at the end of the second act, it’s virtually impossible to tell where the plot will take its characters, even if the thematic endpoint has been well established. Even when there’s opportunities plainly laid out for a witty plot twist - in particular the sole line of dialogue from a poor German passenger who recently suffered a stroke – the film doesn’t take its own bait.

When it's firing on all cylinders, it's fantastic – the film's first big scene with Colin and Yaya arguing over a dinner bill is particularly pointed – but there are far too many dips into self-indulgent.

For all its shortcomings, 'Triangle of Sadness' is an entertaining dive into the lives of the rich and the famous, even if the dive is as shallow as its characters are made out to be. Thank goodness the laughs are worth sitting through the film lecturing the audience on something they are already well aware of.

Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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