(writer and director Ruben Östlund) (2022, Foxtel)
In the 1988 movie Funny Farm, hapless writer Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) is asked whether his novel in progress is comedy, action or adventure. He replies, gleefully: “It’s all three”. Triangle of Sadness is a dreadful melange too and there’s nothing to be gleeful about. It’s a bore. Östlund didn’t know if he was making a gross-out, social satire, or survival movie. It is, in fact, a poorly executed scramble of all three, mixed with a bit of luxury yacht-and-model-porn. Östlund puts a stereotypical bunch of wealthy cruise-goers on board the SS Minnow – sorry, an unnamed yacht – and jabs madly at them with the blunted, worn-out spears of the woke left. The uber-rich can be lecherous, dumb, spoilt and unaware. Who knew! Other people have to serve them. Who knew! They can even be evil, as are the charming elderly British couple (subtly named Clementine and Winston) who turn out to be arms manufacturers. The only vaguely amusing parts of the yacht scenes are provided by Woody Harrelson as the perpetually drunk captain listing to starboard [Shades of Captain Ron? – Ed.].
There is no amusement at all, however in the exchange between the captain and and a Russian oligarch, Dimitry (an excellent Zlatko Burić) of boilerplate capitalism v communism cliches – (Russian oligarchs can be capitalists. Who knew!) – unless it is guessing which tired maxim comes next. Dimitry, by the way, finds it amusing to answer the question, “how did you make your money?” by barking “I sell shit!” then laughingly confirming that he means fertiliser. Still, Dimity is kind of likeable and believable. One of the few, including stroke-victim Therese, (Iris Berben) who conveys the dreadful frustration of being unable to speak with poignancy. Would that some of the other characters chose to remain mute.
The yacht hits a storm while the guests are eating peculiar but posh seafood dishes (of course). A torrent of projectile vomiting, that would disgust both Peter Greenaway and Mr. Creosote, begins. Dimitry’s mistress rolls about in a vomit covered bathroom – apparently her punishment for coming on the cruise with her boyfriend and his wife. Never forget that this is a morality tale. No, don’t worry, you won’t be allowed to forget.
This onboard middle part of the film is pointlessly preceded by a Zoolander-like story of the unhappy relationship between two models – the perpetually confused Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his unpleasant girlfriend Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean). It might be that Carl is as mystified as we are that the drawn-out argument about which of them should pay for dinner is in this movie at all. Or why he had to ponce about at a modelling audition first.
There are pirates and a hand-grenade (the irony). The SS Minnow (sorry, did it again) goes down and some of our cast of haves and have-nots end up on a tropical island still in their class-indicative, clean and pressed clothes. “Now!” says our social justice warrior director, “we’ll turn the tables. Those who were up are now down. And so on”. [Shades of Lord of the Flies? – Ed.] Abigail, (the excellent Dolly de Leon) a cleaner on the yacht, becomes the island leader. “I caught the fish. I made the fire. I cooked”. At that point, astonishingly, the term, “the means of production” is actually used.
The film looks marvellous, but the soundtrack is a horror. The music, storm and beach sound effects are mixed so loudly that dialogue can be hard to hear. And the eating noises! Why do sound guys love the unnatural slurping and chewing sounds they invent using vacuums and toilet plungers, or something?
Finally, Yaya and Abigail go searching and find something which is no surprise to the viewer, but the very ending, might be. It must have been written in one of Östlund’s ever so slightly more imaginative, less preachy moments.
It’s not that Triangle of Sadness loses its way. It meanders heavily on its own confused but virtuous path, braying at the audience. It’s a righteous donkey. But don’t watch it if you like donkeys. The donkey on the island suffers a worse fate than the donkey buried on the Farmers’ property [Shades of The Banshees of Inisherin? – Ed.]. Watch Funny Farm instead. Or Lord of the Flies. Or Gilligan’s Island.