Triangle of Sadness (2022), written by Ruben Östlund, gathered a long list of award nominations. How’s the screenplay? Let’s analyze it.
- Draft Read: 2020-08-31
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 99
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): Unspecified city, Cruise ship, Desolate island
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple weeks
- Genre(s): Comedy
- Theme(s): Classism, Gender norms, Capitalism, Communism, Love, Satire, Farce
- Protagonist Change: None
I can’t recall reading two weird scripts in one day. And more shocking is that both of these scripts were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. And then I wonder if I’m having a bad day… if i’m the one not thinking straight… if I’m missing something obvious.
I don’t think I am. This script, with strong criticisms of our current society and frequent debate, both direct and indirect, on communism and capitalism, and gender roles, feels about 20 years too late to be considered original. It’s a movie whose message its intended audience (rich people) would likely never get, let alone value.
There are some absolutely hilarious moments of dialogue delivered at perfect times. On Page 55, the plastered Russian cruise guest takes the intercom and tells the passengers the ship is, “going under,” which only adds to the over-the-top farce.
Then there is the descriptive language. Here’s one action line (Page 50):
Instead, her body surprises her by regurgitating some scallop to mix with the roe in her mouth. She manages to keep it from escaping with a refill of the champagne.
Perhaps both of these points could be boiled down to: The writer does a great job of using their unique voice. Few scripts excel at this, an example being Butter (2011), but the ones that do tend to hold me as the reader.
Is Carl basically George Costanza? Because that’s how he comes across. In fact, roughly 15 pages (Pages 5-20) are spent showing a fight between Carl and Yaya. The cause of the disagreement? Yaya not offering to pay for dinner.
Beyond the cliché characters, the script never really builds to anything. For example, all of Act 2 is spent with the yacht’s guests becoming more violently ill, and then wham… we are in Act 3; deserted on a desert island. And while the storm made everyone physically sick, we never foresaw a shipwreck coming.
And how about Abigail, the “toilet attendant,” who takes control of the deserted passengers (and pirate) on the tropical island and becomes like one of them. What’s the message there? I don’t want to even begin trying to analyze a character like that.
The script is episodic. Carl is the main character, yet we long go stretches without him having any screentime.
The plot is separated into three parts, Carl & Yaya, The Yacht, and The Island. Without question, The Yacht is the most entertaining.
Along with the characters, themes, such as commentary on gender roles and classism blend the three parts, or acts, together, although they feel relatively fragmented.
It’s hard to offer any constructive thoughts on the plot because it’s atypical. Truthfully, I’m not even sure if I would consider Carl the protagonist because he’s absent for long stretches in Act 2, and I don’t even begin to understand why the writer had the final shot of the script be Carl running through the jungle. Well, I suppose it has something to do with the scene before and him figuring out what may happen to Yaya, but that’s a guess.
Carl and Yaya are an influencer couple. Both are self-centered and superficial. The best character is Dimitry, the stereotypical cutthroat Russian business magnate with a good sense of humor.
Some of the characters, particularly the Russians, are more direct in voicing their inner thoughts (generally on social issues), while with others it’s drawn out very slowly (see the George Constanza reference above)
Dialogue & Pacing
There were some entertaining lines, funny lines, and (a few) impactful lines. I didn’t quite follow some of the messages in Act 3 (Page 77), but there is a funny exchange between Abigal, Yaya and Carl in which Carl is criticized in regard to how he becomes animated when he speaks. Here are a few of the lines:
Don’t point at her. Put your hands down.
Put your hands down!
Your body language is so aggressive Carl.
You seriously don’t get it. Put your hands down!
I’m trying to defend myself.
Don’t defend yourself! You are inflicting pain on her (Abigail) by defending yourself.
Is this a critique of gender roles (In this case, Abigail and Yaya in the dominant position (traditionally male) and Carl submissive (traditionally female)?
The script does contain various subplots. The fundamental issue is they never go anywhere, and I didn’t feel each of them was very strong on its own. For example, the critique of the upper class versus the lower class was interesting but didn’t really present itself in a new and unique way.
It’s hard to gauge the emotional impact of Triangles of Sadness. With strong depth, through acting, directing and cinematography it probably could have some level of impact. I’ll have to watch the film to find out. The script itself? Not so much.
Best Part of The Script
The back-and-forth between the Captain and the Russian billionaire is witty and entertaining (starts on Page 53). Is it over the top? Well read it yourself and decide.