The last time Ruben Östlund came to Cannes with his art world-skewering The Square, he took home the Palme d’Or. Five years on and five days into the festival’s 2022 iteration, he could be looking at a second. Blisteringly funny, narratively intrepid and plain old spitting mad, Triangle Of Sadness is every bit as pointed as the geometrical polygon in its title. Nor could its waspish satire on the idle super-rich feel any more acute, arriving as it does in a Riviera resort where the streets thrum with supercars and shop windows gleam with Rolexes.
Taking its title from a cosmetic term for a wrinkle between the eyebrows, Triangle Of Sadness also brings to mind the Bermuda Triangle of fabled legend: an apt allusion for a three-part yarn whose central third takes place on exactly the kind of lavishly appointed über-yacht one sees everyday here bobbing in the harbour. Before we board, though, Östlund makes us acquainted with Carl and Yaya, a pair of glamour models slash social media influencers operating on the fringes of the international fashion industry.
Accessory rich yet cash poor, Yaya (Charlbi Dean) is happy to let boyfriend Carl (The King’s Man’s Harris Dickinson) pay for her dinner after a hard day’s strutting down the catwalk. The petty argument that follows – one that begins in the restaurant, continues in the taxi and carries on all the way up to their hotel room – may be comically overextended, yet it deftly establishes both the coldly mercantile foundation on which their relationship is based and the fissures that will open up the moment it is tested.
That test will come soon enough. First, though, it’s playtime as Carl and Yaya take a free trip on that aforementioned yacht: a Putin-esque pleasure cruiser with a passenger list made up of oligarchs, arms dealers and gauche tech titans. A less savoury bunch of billionaires would be hard to conceive. In Östlund’s hands, however, they become a riotous rogue’s gallery, topped off by Woody Harrelson as a boozy captain who is loath to leave his cabin and starts quoting Lenin, Marx and Chomsky the moment he does.
With smartly attired crew members on call to cater for the wealthy’s every whim and an unseen army of menials toiling below decks, Triangle’s slightly flabby midriff has the feel of Downton Abbey On The Nile. Better have your lifebelt ready, though, because Östlund has surprises in store for both his characters and his audience, not to mention an overdue class-war reckoning involving put-upon toilet cleaner Abigail (Dolly De Leon), pretzel sticks and a desert island straight out of Lost.
Subtle this certainly isn’t, and Östlund could hardly have chosen an easier or more deserving target than the obscenely, thoughtlessly wealthy. After a so-so few days of underwhelming Palme d’Or contenders, though, there is no question Triangle Of Sadness has given the festival the invigorating shot in the arm it sorely needed.
Triangle Of Sadness does not currently have a UK or US release date. Stick with Total Film for all the latest coverage from Cannes 2022 – check out our review of George Miller's Three Thousand Years Of Longing, through that link.