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How ‘Triangle of Sadness’, ‘White Lotus’, ‘The Menu’ confuse the rich

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Ruben Östlund does not want to “eat the rich”. But he likes to make fun of them.

In “Triangle of Sadness” (now in theaters), the Swedish filmmaker takes the satire of wealth to sadistic extremes, with a crude 15-minute sequence set on a luxury yacht. Due to a combination of turbulent weather and poor seafood, well-to-do passengers gradually fell ill with explosive vomiting and diarrhea – falling down stairs and crashing into walls as they relieved themselves for storm.

“I had a goal that (the scene) should be taken so far that the audience at some point has to say, ‘Please save them, they’ve had enough! Don’t punish them anymore!'” says Östlund . “And then I even go 10 steps further.”

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‘Triangle’ is just one of many new movies and TV shows aimed at social discontent and the super rich that year. Returning series such as Bravo’s “Below Deck” and HBO’s “Succession” put the elite under the microscope, while Apple TV+ comedy “Loot” stars Maya Rudolph as a deaf billionaire who reinvents herself as a than a philanthropist.

Dark comedy “The Menu” (in theaters November 18) elevates foodie culture at a remote island restaurant, where arrogant diners unexpectedly become part of the evening meal. And HBO’s Emmy-winning “The White Lotus” returns Sunday (9 EDT/PDT) with more wealthy folks misbehaving on the holidays, swapping season one’s Hawaiian location for a quaint resort town. Sicilian.

“Lotus” again finds meaningless vacationers looking for a connection as murder looms on the horizon. The seven-episode Season 2 tackles the topics of power and toxic masculinity, and features an almost entirely new cast (except for Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries).

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Mike White (HBO’s Enlightened) created, wrote and directed the series. He allows viewers to form their own opinions “about these characters and their attitudes, but it often subverts that expectation,” says Theo James, who plays brother financier Cam. “Wealth isn’t always black or white. These people are there and you are partly repelled by them, but then you see part of yourself in them.”

This searing type of social satire is nothing new: “The Exterminating Angel” (a 1962 film) and 1972’s “The Ruling Class” were send-offs of class dynamics. More recent examples include Jordan Peele’s “Us” and Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” which offer a biting commentary on privilege. But the comedy that confuses the upper class hits even harder in 2022, as the richest 10% of the world’s population now own 76% of the wealth, according to this year’s Global Inequality Report.

“These themes have been explored very well in the past, but today it really affects people’s mindsets,” says Dolly de Leon, a Filipino actress who plays a housekeeper-turned-actress in “Triangle.” . “The gap between rich and poor is widening. (Östlund) believes in an ideal society in which everyone should have equal opportunities, but that is not the case.”

Charlbi Dean, left, Dolly De Leon and Vicky Berlin in a scene from

“Triangle” follows a pair of models (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) who are sent on a free cruise, where they post selfies and rub shoulders with arms dealers and Russian oligarchs. Östlund, whose other satirical films include “Force Majeure” and “The Square”, was inspired to write the film after conversations with his partner, a fashion photographer. He was intrigued by the idea of ​​”beauty as currency” and wanted to explore how Instagram influencers can use their looks to climb the social ladder.

When you “don’t separate personal life and business, everything becomes a product that you sell,” says Östlund. Clothes, too, become a camouflage and “are so linked to hierarchies”. Fashion brands basically sell their product on (the concept of) herd behavior: we detect which social group we are connected to, and then we buy clothes in order to fit into that group. social group.”

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“Menu” similarly roasts a particular subset of the ultra-rich: the fine dining. The comedy follows Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young woman who accompanies her foodie boyfriend (Nicholas Hoult) to an exclusive fine-dining restaurant where actors, critics, businessmen and baby boomers pay $1,250 a meal.

But as the night wears on, each sumptuous dish becomes more and more personal, as celebrity chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) blasts his wealthy clientele for financial fraud and the destruction of people’s lives. He also refuses to offer bread – once considered food for the lower classes – and instead serves them a meager plate of sauces.

“We were trying to go beyond the concept of entitlement, and rich people are a way to get there,” said co-writer Seth Reiss. With more platforms than ever to consume content, “it’s almost like people are skimming through it so fast they don’t enjoy it anymore. And imagine the content you put out is food – you put so much into it. of work and then they just eat it as fast as they can.”

The film has “tangential thematic similarities” to some of the other wealth satires being released, adds co-writer Will Tracy, although they wrote the first draft four years ago.

“It almost feels like it’s part of a wave, or we’re responding to (this trend),” Tracy says. “We weren’t, but it’s interesting to see the overlap. There’s something to be said for capitalism and this kind of cultural dissatisfaction: everyone is craving something more.”

Contributor: Marco della Cava