The Most Hilariously Disgusting Scene of 2022
In movies, if a character vomits, it usually means one of two things: For men, it’s an indication that they’ve just learned some terrible truth that their body cannot process; for women, uh oh, maybe you’re pregnant!
There are exceptions, though. Every once in a while, on-screen vomiting can be an excuse for gross-out comedy. Perhaps the most famous instance is in Stand by Me during that horrendous pie-eating contest. Both disgusting and hilarious, comedic vomit scenes are hard to pull off — in part, because they can be hard to watch. But 2022 had a doozy of one. That it came from a movie that won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival makes the whole thing even more amusing.
The enraged satire Triangle of Sadness is the latest from sardonic Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund, who previously made The Square and Force Majeure, the latter film the source material for the 2020 Will Ferrell comedy Downhill. Triangle of Sadness is told in three distinct segments, the first chronicling the prickly relationship of a young couple who are both models (Harris Dickinson, the late Charlbi Dean), the second documenting what happens when they go on a fancy yacht filled with horrible one-percenters and the third involving a plot twist I won’t spoil. Östlund targets privilege, class, power and the insecurity of guys whose girlfriends make more money than they do, mixing humor and darker plot elements. And in the midst of all that, there is a sequence in which just about everybody throws up. A lot.
The scene occurs on the yacht, which is stuck in incredibly choppy waters. The ship’s drunken captain (Woody Harrelson) has insisted that the cruise’s prestigious dinner take place the same night as a terrible storm, and soon the dressed-up guests start feeling nauseous, the boat swaying from side to side to an alarming degree. (The set was actually built on hydraulics to create the seasick-inducing effect.) First, one person pukes. Then another. Then another and another. And the more that the captain and his crew try to pretend like nothing’s wrong, the funnier the whole thing gets.
The sequence, which lasts about 15 minutes, doesn’t just involve puking, though: Eventually, the wretchedly rich passengers go back to their cabins to deal with copious diarrhea as well. (Turns out, there was something wrong with the food, too.) By the time raw sewage is spilling out of the suites and down the hallways, Triangle of Sadness has become an utterly revolting, comedically rich comeuppance for these wealthy, callous jerks who treat everyone around them with contempt.
“From the beginning, I decided that I wanted to push (that sequence) very far, so the audience would feel, ‘Please save them. They have had enough,’” Östlund has explained. “It’s very hard to know how far you have pushed it because you get so used to the material yourself. So when I was sitting and editing it, I said, ‘This is nothing,’ because I’ve watched it a hundred times. And then when we had the first screening of the film, I realized, ‘Oh shit, maybe I overdid it.’ Maybe I should have been a little bit more careful. Maybe it should have been a little bit less. Maybe it was too much in the end. I apologized to the audience. But it was too late to recut the film.”
I saw Triangle of Sadness at Cannes, a festival that often caters to the most demanding and challenging of arthouse cinema, which can give Cannes (and its films) an unearned reputation for being snooty and oh-so-serious. There are plenty of funny movies that screen there as well, but I’ve rarely seen (or felt) an audience simultaneously wince and laugh as much as during that scene. You can sense what’s coming, which makes you dread the possibility of watching people vomit — and then you realize, oh no, you’re going to see so many people vomit. You laugh because the characters are terrible and deserve it, but you also laugh because it’s all so ridiculously over-the-top. The voluminous puking seems like it’s never going to stop, ever. Maybe you’ll feel a little bad for these one-percenters. But not much.
Just as funny is that Neon, the film’s U.S. distributor, has really leaned into the puke, so to speak, creating marketing around the vomit sequence. As a result, in the indie/arthouse world, Triangle of Sadness became an unexpected sort of cinematic gut check: “We’ve gotta see just how bad all that vomiting is!” And just like that scene in Stand by Me — or the one in Team America: World Police with the retching Gary — the yacht sequence proved that there’s something really, really funny about someone losing their lunch. Maybe it’s the sound. Or the total loss of body control. Or the utter perversity on the filmmakers’ part to make us witness such a horrendous moment up close.
Regardless, Östlund sought to craft a satire about the grossness of income inequality — well, there’s nothing grosser than someone blowing chunks. But after enduring these insufferable rich people over the course of Triangle of Sadness, it sure was satisfying to watch them all hurl. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch of bastards.