After a long period of gestation, Palme d'or Winner Ruben Ostlund was finally ready to unleash his latest film at the Cannes Film Festival with a synopsis that promised to be anything than subtle given the subject: announced as a fashion satire as well as the story of a cruise for the über Rich with a Marxist captain... One had to wonder how these scattered elements were going to coalesce into a coherent story...
The answer is: they do not. Indeed Triangle of Sadness has three distinct acts that seem to belong to a different film each. The opening one is indeed that fashion satire that was promised except that... it is not or rather it lacks of focus. The director seems more interested in conveying the difficulties faced by modern men when dating wealthier, more successful women, here with male model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his supermodel girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean) in some amusing but extended scenes which drag down the running time. The fashion satire itself is oddly toothless and belongs to another era, the '90s more specifically and bears no resemblance to the current fashion world and its effort of inclusiveness as well as espousing of more interesting visual creators from the film world. It feels like watching what Christopher Guest would have done three decades ago in a sort of Calvin Klein mock-documentary.
In a narrative turn that is frankly impossible to believe, the young couple who happen to be influencers too, get invited in a super exclusive cruise in the Mediterranean sea, the kind patronised by arms dealers and other secretive who will certainly not welcome this kind of social media exposure! That second act is the most successful however with an infectious chaotic energy which cannot be denied when everything that could go wrong does go wrong, a directing and especially editing tour de force. It is a shame however that, before the explosion of bodily fluids, some more understated and cringeworthy scenes show a better film hidden under all the crudeness, as some of the wealthy guests unwittingly trigger the ongoing chaos by seemingly trying to make a nice gesture for the cruise staff and not taking no for an answer.
The third act focuses on a shifting balance of power but while it elevates the brilliant Dolly De Leon from background extra to centre stage as the toilet attendant Abigail, the confused message seems to hint that given a chance, anyone will grab the power and ultimately everyone is awful, that tiresome satire trope.
The ensemble cast is fabulous from the main couple to the supporting actors with the smallest screen time but it is not enough to save Triangle of Sadness, an obvious, overlong satire. The Swedish director's previous film, The Square, had a complexity that elevated it after the somehow obvious middle class dark comedy Force Majeure so it is a shame he seems to have retreated back to a simplistic kind of cinema.
Review by Laurent De Alberti
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Official Selection, In Competition
Triangle of Sadness. Sweden/France/UK... 2022. Directed by Ruben Ostlund. Starring Harris Dickinson, Dolly De Leon...