Film reviews: Triangle of Sadness | Emily the Criminal | The Good Nurse | Barbarian | Bros
Triangle of Sadness (15) ****
Emily the Criminal (15) ****
The Good Nurse (15) ****
Barbarian (18) ****
Bros (15) ***
Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’or-winning Triangle of Sadness sees the Swedish provocateur once again taking paw-swipes at privilege with a vomit-fuelled satire of the super-rich. Like his previous Palme d’Or winner, The Square, it’s not exactly subtle, but it is funny, thanks largely to the emetic chaos of its set-at-sea second act and a series of sly turns from its up-for-anything international cast. Split into three interlinked chapters, the film kicks off by introducing us to male model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his model/influencer girlfriend Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean) as they engage in an excruciating exchange about gender politics in the modern age. Aesthetically blessed, but somewhat cash poor, they’re aspiring members of the one-percent and Östlund uses their insecurities to segue into a merciless takedown of those whose wealth is in inverse proportion to their value in the world.
That starts to happen with a location switch to a cruise on a luxury super-yacht on which Yaya’s Instagram celebrity has scored her and Carl free passage. Populated by an entertainingly grotesque rogues’ gallery of Russian oligarchs, tech nerds, arms dealers and trophy girlfriends, the voyage is Östlund’s chance to let rip with an over-the-top assault on their bubble-like existence, one enhanced by the additional micro-aggressions perpetrated against (and by) the yacht’s upstairs/downstairs crew. Strong stomachs are required for the scatological and puke-heavy reckoning that follows, but as the third chapter kicks off on a remote island, Östlund sharpens his focus by giving the film over to Abigail (a scene-stealing Dolly De Leon), who emerges from the lower ranks of the yacht’s crew to disrupt this top-down social order in ways that are hilarious, horrible and heartbreaking.
The inequities of capitalism get a more streetwise work-through in Emily the Criminal, a stripped-down thriller starring Aubrey Plaza as a debt-ridden college drop-out who participates in credit card fraud to try and clear her crippling loan repayments. Seeing how rigged the system is against those on the bottom rung, the out-of-options Emily (Plaza) follows through on a tip from a colleague about earning fast money as a “dummy shopper” – someone who uses stolen credit cards to buy luxury goods that can be sold out of the back of a van for a quick profit. As she bonds with the guy running the scam (Theo Rossi), the action turns on whether or not her facility for criminality will fully corrupt her or lead to some kind of moral redemption. Debut writer/director John Patton Ford wrings plenty of queasy, claustrophobic tension out of this scenario and Plaza – clearly relishing the chance to play gritty after a career of kooks and weirdoes – is as good as she’s ever been.
Based on a true story of a serial-killing nurse who moved from hospital to hospital, The Good Nurse is a classier-than-usual thriller for Netflix given its current bent for exploitative true-crime stories. Credit Scottish screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) and Danish director by Tobias Lindholm (The Hunt). Eschewing sensationalism in favour of creeping dread, they tease out a more nuanced story involving hospital cover-ups, systemic failures and overworked staff. The film itself revolves around intensive care nurse Amy (Jessica Chastain) and the uneasy friendship she forms with Eddie Redmayne’s Charlie, a new colleague whose arrival coincides with the unexplained deaths of some of her patients. Chastain’s finely tuned performance and Redmayne’s inscrutable chilliness enhance the air of discomfort in a film that exposes the dangers of inaction.
A double-booking on Airbnb is the not-entirely promising set-up for Barbarian; luckily it’s also a bit of a red herring in what turns out to be a ridiculously entertaining and inventive horror movie. Georgina Campbell takes the ostensible lead as Tess, whose discovery of a stranger (played by It star Bill Skarsgård) in the house she’s booked ahead of a job interview the next day forces her to confront a standard dumb horror movie dilemma – should she be sensible and leave immediately or accept the aforementioned stranger’s invitation to come in? No prizes for guessing what she chooses, but from this point on nothing unfolds as expected. Writer/director Zach Cregger certainly knows his way around the genre. Filling the movie with literal and figurative trap doors, he jumps audaciously between different timelines and locations and brings in new characters at unexpected junctures (Justin Long’s arrival as a scandal-plagued actor is a hoot), all the while ratcheting up the tension in fun, creepy ways. A real Halloween treat.
Pitched squarely as Hollywood’s first mainstream gay romcom, Bros is a lot funnier when it's mining comedy from the specifics of its central relationship than when it's trying to satisfy the demands of the genre. Co-writer and star Billy Eichner plays Bobby, a relationship-phobic podcaster whose life is thrown off balance when he starts to fall for hunky lawyer Aaron (Luke Macfarlane). Opposites-attract romance duly established, Eichner gets some good, snarky lines but when the film tries to do something new with the romcom format, it largely ignores the best lessons of all the Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan movies it affectionately references (tight plotting, sparkling dialogue) in favour of the baggy storytelling and hit-and-miss raunchiness of producer Judd Apatow’s output.
Triangle of Sadness is in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from 28 October; Emily the Criminal is available on demand now; The Good Nurse is on selected release now and streams on Netflix from 26 October; Barbarian and Bros are in cinemas from 28 October