Triangle of Sadness review – glossy satire on the ultra wealthy

Two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund’s mischievous takedown of the super-rich has more style than substance

Swedish director Ruben Östlund takes no prisoners in his satirical approach. Having savaged fragile male egos in Force Majeure (still his leanest, most effective work) and eviscerated art world pretensions in The Square, he now turns his sights to the ultra wealthy with his most recent picture (and his second film to win the Cannes Palme d’Or), Triangle of Sadness. They are his easiest target to date. But even so, Östlund’s characters, the passengers on a luxury cruise, are grotesque caricatures. They run the gamut from vapid and cruel (model Yaya, played by the late Charlbi Dean) to vapid and oversensitive (her boyfriend Carl, played by Harris Dickinson), through a full range of monstrous self-absorption (the elderly arms dealers, the waste management mogul, the Russian billionaire who treats the ship’s crew as her personal playthings).

Not even the flicker of a redeeming quality is on show. Of course we want to see them punished and humiliated. And Östlund obliges with a second act climax that combines the malicious mischief of Lars von Trier with the grand guignol of Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life, all captured with the glossily self-satisfied aesthetic of a perfume ad. It’s gloriously cathartic in its mean-spirited and horribly funny ferocity.

But then there’s the flabby third act in which Östlund slightly fumbles the hand-tooled Louis Vuitton ball. The message – that power corrupts and that those who have it will always treat other, less privileged individuals as commodities – is a little obvious and, in contrast with the more robust elements of the picture, almost bland as an insight.

Watch a trailer for Triangle of Sadness.


Wendy Ide

The GuardianTramp

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