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TRAINGLE OF MADNESS (2022)  l  Elevation Pictures  |  October 7, 2022

Starring: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson

Director: Ruben Östlund

Celebrity model couple, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival.

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TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

Triangle of Sadness is easily one of the most outrageous films in recent memory that provides a biting and scathing commentary on the wealthy upper class, resulting in a film that is guaranteed to leave theatres erupting in laughter from start to finish. 

 

Ever since Triangle of Sadness won the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, it quickly became one of my most anticipated films for the rest of the year. And watching this film with a packed audience at the Toronto International Film Festival was a true experience, as most of us did not know what to expect from this film. So when the most unexpected and outrageous events happened over the course of the film, I found myself dying of laughter and nearly falling out of my chair for the majority of the almost two and a half hour run time. 

 

Written and directed by Ruben Östlund, the film is told in three chapters and follows members of the wealthy upper class on a cruise, including a fashion model celebrity couple of social media fame. We see the rich interact with each other, as well as the crew of the ship, which leads to lots of shocking and comical moments that paint a very harsh picture of the upper class. Their arrogance knows no bounds, they have to be listened to too, and their ignorance is appalling. It is truly the stereotype of everything wrong with society all at once. 

 

To ensure the film doesn’t feel too far fetched, Östlund pulls from his own life experiences, most notably with the scene where the young couple fights over the dinner bill and who is paying it which is based on a fight Östlund had with his now wife on an early date in their relationship, which grounds moments in reality. Östlund carefully plays out each scenario, never cutting to the punchline right away as an American film would, but instead letting the scenario find its natural conclusion, which allows for some truly outrageous and hilarious moments to occur. For North American audiences, the scenes may feel like they go on a little too long, but the direction keeps each scene fully engaging and ensures they never overstay their welcome. 

 

Then, Östlund sets the story on fire, shattering this “perfect” world that he has created for the rich with one brilliant dinner scene during the middle of a storm at sea halfway through the film, which has a ripple effect on the rest of the film. It’s hands down one of the most wild and hilarious scenes of the year as you watch the storm wreak havoc, causing vomit, shit and insane one liners to fly across the screen. And one of the funniest movie lines of the entire year plays out in this scene with the old British couple explaining how they amassed their fortune, which will have you dying of laughter while also shaking your head at everything wrong with these ignorant wealthy individuals. 

 

During this scene, Östlund’s craft as a filmmaker shines greatly, but it's his use of practical effects which makes the actions jump off the screen. Having constructed an actual set that rocks back and forth to simulate the storm at sea, real pieces of furniture slid back and forth as liquids ran amuck on set. It’s noticeable, as CGI would not have given the scene this sense of urgency, which is the cherry on top of this already incredibly entertaining sequence. The third chapter then places the wealthy characters of the film out of their natural habitat, allowing for Östlund’s commentary to take full flight in a truly hilarious final act of the film. From start to finish, Östlund’s genius writing and directing makes the entire film the comedic gem it is, proving his unmatchable talent as both a writer and director. 

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Making the film as entertaining as it is is an excellent ensemble cast. Harris Dickinson stars as Carl, a young model who is on the cruise with his influencer girlfriend. It’s a very dry performance, with a resting look of annoyance and simplicity always on his face, and it fits the character perfectly. There are moments where Dickinson brings an understanding to his character, as he is merely invited on this cruise and not truly a member of the upper class, but he quickly makes his character as detestable as the rest of them, highlighting the corruption of fame and money on good individuals. Dickinson has truly broken out the past year with roles in big films like Where the Crawdads Sing, The King’s Man and See How They Run, but time and time again he proves himself to be an exciting young actor. 

 

In her final film appearance as Yaya, Carl’s influencer girlfriend, is the late Charlbi Dean. And what a magnetic performance she gives. In every scene, Dean brings a mischievous energy to the screen that captures your attention and holds it for the entire time she is on screen. Every mannerism, facial expression and line delivery is incredibly deliberate, showcasing a truly talented actress delivering an exceptional performance. She will have you laughing one minute, then feeling slightly bad for her character the next before realizing she is portraying a truly despicable individual and you stop caring about her again. While watching her performance, it’s truly sad to know she was lost so soon and far too early, as she had a bright career ahead of her. 

 

The cast members making up the rest of the cruise ship crew members and guests are all great, with Woody Harrelson having an entertaining turn as the ship’s captain. But, it is Dolly De Leon who steals the show as Abigail. What starts off as a small and seemingly insignificant role as one of the maids on the cruise ship, quickly becomes the scene stealing performance of the entire film thanks to De Leon’s undeniable screen presence. The energy she brings to the film is unparalleled, delivering some of the funniest moments of the entire film as her character finds herself in a position of power over the guests she has been waiting on. De Leon is an absolute spitfire in the role, bursting with a personality that knows no bounds unlike the rather bland guests she finds herself stuck with. While this film’s awards season hopes lie in the Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay categories, I would not count De Leon out as a dark horse nomination for Best Supporting Actress as she soars in the film. 

 

There are few films that create such an unforgettable experience when seen with a large crowd, and even fewer are as polarizing as this film, but Triangle of Sadness is a one of a kind film. Absolutely hilarious from start to finish with outstanding direction and writing by Ruben Östlund that takes the audience on a wild and unforgettable trip, with outstanding performances from the entire cast led by Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean and Dolly De Leon, Triangle of Sadness is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable films of the year!

RATING: 4.5 out of 5