Beginning today, my local theater has been exclusively showing films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, I will be going to the theaters four straight days to view those I’m interested in seeing. Today marked the first: Triangle of Sadness.
Expectations were middling going into this one. Among those nominated, this is the one I knew the least about. Perhaps that was its virtue, as the relatively unknown origins gave it a sort of fresh mystique. Nothing was going to be expected—all was new. Still fresh on the mind (and high on the fumes of a post-theater outing), the ending cut still embellishes itself. My, what an ending.
“Models Carl and Yaya are invited for a luxury cruise with a rogues’ gallery of super-rich passengers. At first, all appears Instagrammable, but the cruise ends catastrophically and the group find themselves marooned on a desert island.”
All right, so I fibbed a bit in the second paragraph. I didn’t know nothing about this; the cast being stranded on an island was something that was very prominent in my mind going in. So when it came to be that more than half of this film is everyone not being stranded on an island, I was a little taken aback.
To spoil just a hair about the structure of the film, the island sequence takes only about an hour of the film’s time. For reference, this film is 147 minutes with credits. What some may see as a substantial amount of build-up for a disastrously rushed payoff may be looking at it from a narrow angle.
What is likely my only issue with the film, outside of perhaps some duller moments near the middle portions, is that it’s pretty clear with what it wants to say. Though not a great issue, there is a little bit of repetition to the moral conundrums being presented that may not be as cleverly devised as the writing gives off. Most of all, it seems to devour every morsel, including as many scenes as possible—large and small—to remind the audience of who these characters are.
Which is why it helps when the morsels are delicious, entertaining, and just poetic enough to make the runtime feel relatively finite. Watching Triangle of Sadness can almost be equated to reading a book with the way it courses itself. Irony plays a large part in the development of scenes, as well as the manner in which characters treat one another. Sort of a sarcastic cover of tragedy, with moments of genuine empathy desiring to burst through.
This disconnect is likely what I enjoyed so much here. As more characters are introduced, their roles within the film are firmly established. More and more time passes to accentuate the priorities of these characters outside of their objective functions, which end up turning on their head as the plot advances. Time is dedicated to many of these characters, whose feelings are given opportunity to be justified. Yet when the moment it comes, they retract just as they always do.
Deep down, you want to care for these characters. Simply as a measure of basic human empathy, these people still harbor all that makes each of us what we are. And then they reveal what they are, and the viewer retracts just as the film does. An endless cycle of believing things can change for the better. They won’t. Sometimes it’s too late, too deeply ingrained within to make a difference. Despite this, we still try, trust, and hope.
Much of this won’t make a lot of sense without the context of specific situations, I’m aware. This is the manner in which I’m making my own recommendation: praising a cloud. Out of reach, hard to make out, and seemingly benign. Yet when you study what makes clouds what they are and what they’re capable of, it can be rather fascinating.
Probably a whole lot of nonsense as it is, but this is the price to pay for wishing to absolve my content of heavy spoilers. Triangle of Sadness can be fairly heavy-handed and perhaps a tad overlong. Thankfully, it makes up for it through good performances, an intriguing dissection of characters and culture, and the promise of something more interspersed between evidence that there’s nothing.
Ah, I should probably mention that there’s a lot of vomit in this. Like, an absurd amount. Not a very clean film.
Final Score: 9/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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