Ruben Ostlund‘s Triangle of Sadness is often wickedly funny — there’s no denying that. Now and then the press crowd at the Salle Debussy was chortling, guffawing and even howling. Even I, a confirmed LQTM-er, laughed out loud five or six times.

The 140-minute Triangle turns broad after the first hour or so, and that’s when it starts to lose the satiric mojo. (But not entirely.) But until that tonal shift it struck me as the funniest, scalpel-like social comedy I’ve seen since…well, now that I think of it, Ostlund’s The Square (’17), which sliced and diced your elite, politically terrified, museum-culture wokesters.

When the capsule synopsis for Sadness appeared online a couple of years everyone immediately recognized the similarity to Lina Wertmuller‘s Swept Away (’74), a Marxist comedy about a luxury yacht sinking and leaving a rich bitch (Mariangela Melato) and a common crewman (Giancarlo Giannini) stranded on a desert island.

Once their class-based loathing of each other fades away, Melato and Giannini fall in love and the social dynamic reverses itself — Melato swooning with desire for the primitive Giannini and vice versa. But when they’re finally rescued Melato reverts to haughty form, leaving Giannini heartbroken.

But strictly speaking the resemblance applies only to Triangle of Sadness‘s third act, titled “The Island.” And it’s different from the Wertmuller (a two-hander) in that Ostlund’s is an ensemble piece.

The first act, focusing on a young, beautiful, somewhat conflicted couple living on modelling and social-influencer income (Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean), is titled “Carl and Yaya”.

The film’s best scene occurs early on. It involves a dispute Carl and Yaya have about who will pay for dinner in a pricey restaurant. Yeah, I know — what kind of dude is Carl if he’s expecting Yaya to play the traditional man’s role? But Yaya, who makes a good deal more money than Carl, pledged the night before that she’d cover it, only to blithely ignore the check when the waiter places it on their table. Carl wants them to be equals, he complains, and not submit to standard gender roles. Yaya replies that it’s “unsexy” to talk about money. Manipulation translation: She wants him to get the check anyway.

The second best scene is the opener — a cattle call for a group of shirtless male models (Carl among them) who are asked at one point to show their Balenciaga face (cold, indifferent) and their H&M “happy” face.

In the second act, “The Yacht”, Carl and Yaya are guests on a swanky, first-class vessel (actually Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy‘s Christina O), and about halfway through this section Triangle of Sadness tips over into coarse slapstick with a healthy serving of gross-out humor a la Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

The vomit scene is when the movie changes its game, and while the remainder of the film is amusing in fits and starts, it never qui recovers.

But half of a brilliant comedy (complemented by a reasonably decent one in the second half) is enough for me.

The abundantly wealthy passengers on the cruise (Vicki Berlin, Henrik Dorsin, Jean-Christophe Folly, Iris Berben, Dolly De Leon, Sunnyi Melles) are all vulgar exploiters of one stripe or another. The most amusing tuns are from Woody Harrelson as the ship’s captain — a droll, Marxist-slogan-spouting alcoholic — and Zlatko Burić, a fat Russian fertilizer tycoon (“I sell shit”).