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Beyond Fest movie review: 'Triangle of Sadness' is the best movie of the year

1/5
Charlbi Dean and Harris Dickinson star in "Triangle of Sadness." Photo courtesy of Plattform Produktion
Charlbi Dean and Harris Dickinson star in "Triangle of Sadness." Photo courtesy of Plattform Produktion

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Triangle of Sadness, in theaters Oct. 7, is a profound cringe comedy about power dynamics.

Writer-director Ruben Ostlund skewers the illusion of power and worth in the privileged world, without ever sacrificing showmanship.

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It begins with professional models Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and Carl (Harris Dickinson) arguing over who should pay for dinner. Yaya is more successful in their industry, but ultimately they can both afford it.

They take a yacht cruise via Yaya's influencer network, during which they meet a whole ensemble of quirky characters. When disaster strikes, the power dynamics shift to janitorial staffer Abigail (Dolly De Leon), who is the only person in the group with practical survival skills.

The movie is consistently engaging up until that point, but that turn brilliantly ties the theme together. The sheer fact that Abigail is a background character until she rightfully becomes the star of the movie illustrates how people who make the world run are overlooked.

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Ostlund twists the gender dynamics further once Abigail is in charge. The privileged couple and all the crew-passenger dynamics onboard face a reckoning when they all depend on Abigail.

On the yacht, wealthy clients offer to include crew members in a condescending way. In the crisis, all they can do is attempt to bribe Abigail, who has no need for their riches and promises of future IOUs.

Passengers complain about minutiae, and the crew has to placate them. Even the above-deck crew doesn't respect the vital service Abigail provides to them as the toilet manager below.

Among movies in which characters endlessly debate philosophies, Triangle of Sadness holds its own among Pulp Fiction and the Before trilogy. Beyond Yaya and Carl's debate, a Russian fertilizer salesman shares political quotes with Thomas (Woody Harrelson), the ship's captain.

For all its highbrow leanings, Triangle of Sadness is just as vulgar as a raunchy comedy. An extended sequence continues to find ways for various passengers to express seasickness.

The gross-out comedy gets scatalogical, as if to say all of these characters are full of crap. Or maybe it's just funny to see them flooded with poop.

Ostlund and cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel convey everything from heated dialogue to an ocean storm with elegant camera moves. When Carl and Yaya continue their opening argument in a car, a single take pans between them as their argument becomes more heated.

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During the stormy dinner scene, the camera is stable enough to convey the swaying ship. The camera also moves through the halls of the yacht, checking in on each passenger. As such, the poop scene looks like it was directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The themes the film explores are exhilarating enough to make Triangle of Sadness an outstanding film. Combined with elegant dialogue and filmmaking, that isn't afraid to go low-brow, makes it the total package.

It's clear why Triangle of Sadness won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes. It is the best movie of the year.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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