Where did they film White Lotus?
Principal photography for the miniseries began October 2020 in Hawaii under COVID-19 guidelines. On November 21, 2020, it was reported that the miniseries was halfway through filming at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea and was scheduled to film in December at locations around Maui. wikipedia.orgThe White Lotus
It's just so weird and so wrong on so many levels, and it's not even the weirdest and most wrong thing going on in the first episode!
Breaking his typical nice-guy character, Jake Lacy is *chef's kiss* as a poor little rich boy unnecessarily making things weird.
Nothing to see here, except that Jolene Purdy is the MVP of this episode.
Assuming that Tanya's loaded, shouldn't she have a less precarious way to carry her mother's ashes?!
According to his sister, he would get off to her friend Paula in the morning.
Happy first day of work! Over the phone, Lani tells someone named Darrell, presumably her partner, that her baby's coming.
And yes, with HBO being HBO, we get a very clear close-up of Mark's privates. The context of the situation is actually kind of sad and scary — Mark is waiting to learn whether or not he has testicular cancer.
Olivia and Paula ask Rachel if she met Shane on Raya (yeah, the one where Ben Affleck got unmatched), if her husband will pay off her debt, and other extremely personal questions. Very intimidating.
She's hot, and she doesn't need to take *any* of this.
Well, we knew it was coming, but it doesn't make us go WTF any less.
Jennifer Coolidge's ability to toggle between tragic and comic is virtually effortless.
I'm not sure if people actually say this in a routine cleansing ritual. Needless to say, Jennifer Coolidge and Natasha Rothwell make for a *very* compelling onscreen duo!
I commend Fred Hechinger and Steve Zahn for the very earnest delivery of this moment.
Tanya might be giving off weird vibes with Belinda, but she's a generous tipper.
Given Mark's worries about his health, it's a sweet moment, but it's definitely awkward.
It's still hard to get a good read on Armond, but this is definitely one of those moments that show just how hard the staffers try to appease the rich guests and just how much of a problem that's becoming.
Given Shane's reaction to the tourists at the beginning and the listless, empty expression on Rachel's face, we don't think so!
Read full article at BuzzFeed
Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton, Alexandra Daddario, Steve Zahn and more attend ‘White Lotus’ prem
13 July, 2021 - 07:18pm
13 July, 2021 - 07:18pm
13 July, 2021 - 07:18pm
Confession: the sub-genre that can be summarized as “rich people suffer, oh, also someone dies” is utter catnip to me, especially if it’s an HBO drama. Big Little Lies? I absolutely inhaled it, including the unnecessary and flawed second season (though I’m eternally grateful for the line, “I will NOT not be rich!”). Succession? My world has been an aimless void since COVID knocked the production for season three out of wack but thank the Lord, my suffering will be over soon. So when the trailer for HBO’s The White Lotus dropped last month, my snarky little heart gave an excited quiver at the possibility of this being another excellent entry into this rather specific sub-genre. After last night’s premiere, this suspicion seems almost a surety now.
Created, written, and directed by Mike White (Enlightened), the limited series takes place over the course of a week at a Hawaiian resort and hotel where an assortment of monied people have descended upon for a tropical getaway that winds up going badly. Each VIP guest has their own set of proverbial baggage and although no details are provided just yet, we know it’s very likely one of these individuals is going to die. We also know that it’s not going to be human golden retriever Jake Lacy, whom we meet in the first minute of the show prior to the time jump that brings viewers to the beginning of that ill-fated week. We get to see a whole new side of Lacy here; largely known for playing the sweet-natured love interest, he leans heavily into jerk mode as Shane Patton, the sort of outwardly appearing “gee-whiz” WASP who’s one inconvenience away from letting his stapled mask of civility rot off his face. The boat shoe-wearing, Malcolm Gladwell-reading, commercial real estate agent is newly married to Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), a wide-eyed journalist who’s desperately trying to enjoy her honeymoon despite the creeping suspicion that her marriage may have been a mistake.
Then there’s the Mossbacher family with matriarch and high-powered exec Nicole (Connie Britton) leading the way. Her husband Mark (Steve Zahn) is understandably worried as he awaits word of a possible diagnosis from his doctor, though Nicole has no intention of allowing something as minor as a cancer scare put a dent in their family vacation. Their daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), along with her best friend and fellow college sophomore, Paula (Brittany O’Grady), is the worst sort of spoiled rich girl, equipped with just enough education to wound anyone unfortunate enough to get in their path (the Mossbacher parents included). Sweeney and O’Grady are so good at weaponizing this sophisticated Mean Girl energy that I’m honestly a tad bit afraid of them. Rounding out the family unit is teenage son Quinn (Fred Hechinger) who’s mostly treated as either an afterthought or hindrance. It will be interesting to see how the Mossbachers figure into the proceedings, but mostly I’m just waiting to see when the cool and composed Nicole will let that pseudo-Zen façade fall away (we deserve to watch Britton go feral).
Jennifer Coolidge also stars as Tanya McQuoid, a lone traveler clearly in the midst of some sort of depression, a role which will almost assuredly go down as a standout performance in what is already an impressive and noteworthy filmography. It’s a far more nuanced and tempered role than usual, and although this will be the performance that will make “serious” Hollywood players take notice, anyone who’s paying attention has been aware of Coolidge’s brilliance ever since she purred “We both love soup” in 2000’s Best in Show. Tanya has come to the White Lotus in order to mourn her recently deceased mother. Her proclivity for self-care is apparent, and when she gloms onto spa employee Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), things promise to take a turn towards cringe (not overly so; one of the show’s biggest strengths is that it knows when to hold back). Although Tanya’s loneliness and inner pain garners a certain amount of sympathy, you’ll feel worse for Belinda who’s clearly just trying to do her job. There’s also an unspoken racial component here, with Belinda, a Black woman, being unwittingly placed in a caretaker position for a rich white woman. It’s unclear as to whether or not the series is going to fully call out this racial dynamic, but it’s an undeniable element in the relationship between these two characters.
Whether or not the show makes an effort to question the role of race and treatment within service jobs—it would be to its detriment not to—is yet to be seen, it does turn a hard eye towards the hospitality industry, especially with the hierarchy of clientele, management, and service people/laborers. Hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) espouses service above all, though, in a stereotypical fashion, that belief tends to exist in an upward direction, as little of that care is extended towards the employees that enable such a huge operation to work in the first place. He does, however, momentarily recognize this tendency at times, one of the many instances that show that few, if any, of the characters are wholly terrible. For the most part, however, he flits about like a mustachioed scarecrow tasked with keeping the guests’ concerns at bay (“You have to treat these people like sensitive children”) from moment to moment. Armond’s not a great person, but he’s a damn funny one, and the comedic possibilities here are abundant. Working beside him is Lani (Jolene Purdy), the new trainee who’s having the worst first day at work since Ethan Hawke’s Jake Hoyt in Training Day. I only wish that more of the focus could be on the employees, especially the Native Hawaiians, as the colonialism that is woven into the massive tourism industry that exists there is impossible to ignore.
Though I’ve listed a ton of bad behavior here, the result is an altogether rousing good time for anyone who enjoys the occasional groan sprinkled in with their laughs. It’s Arrested Development meets Clue, with this assembly of already odd people on the verge of imploding into their babbling ids when the chaos breaks. If it was just a series about terrible people, The White Lotus wouldn’t be half as interesting as it is. But what elevates it among some of the more recent television offerings about awful people is that the series doesn’t treat its characters with disdain, opting instead to have the viewer determine their level of likability or lack thereof. The White Lotus guests’ cluelessness and out-of-touch ways are due in large part to their wealth, and when that money ends up not guaranteeing their happiness, they’re left with only fury and disbelief, often with hilarious (and not so hilarious) results. Add in the across-the-board fantastic performances and the perfect amount of cynicism combined with authentic feelings, and this series is sure to be weekly must-see tv. You probably don’t want to hang out with these people, but you’ll almost surely enjoy watching them struggle.
The first episode of The White Lotus is available on HBO and HBO Max. New episodes air Sunday nights at 9pm EST.
Header Image Source: HBO
13 July, 2021 - 06:20pm
The White Lotus, which premiered Sunday, July 11 and features an all-star ensemble cast, details how a group of well-to-do people find their vacation ending with one person dead.
Director and writer Mike White told E! News at the show's red carpet premiere that the concept behind The White Lotus was born after exploring how being "cooped" up with your loved ones throughout the pandemic could take such an extreme toll. As he put it, "You're still with your family, you're still with the person you're married to and having to get along in this tight environment, I thought that would be something that people can relate to."
White said he set out to shine a light on the "cultural issues that everybody's talking about right now" through the lens of seven Hawaii-bound vacationers. Each character, whether it's Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya or Connie Britton's Nicole, is forced to reckon with their own privilege as stuck on an island together.
The first episode opens as the guests arrive to The White Lotus hotel on a boat, with Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and Paula (Brittany O'Grady) quite literally judging people at first glance. They pick apart newlyweds Rachel (Alexandra Daddadrio) and Shane Patton (Jake Lacy), criticize Olivia's own mom (Britton) and write off Tanya (Coolidge) as a zany woman, all assumptions that aren't totally far off.
But as the episode progresses, things begin to look much different for the employees answering to the hotel's VIPs' beck and call.
At one point, Murray Bartlett's character Armond explains to a new employee that it's best to be "generic," so they can be "pleasant, interchangeable helpers" for the guests. "They get everything they want," he says, "but they don't even know what they want, where they are, who we are, or what the f--k is going on."
This might be the key to ensuring a five star review on Yelp, but as Natasha Rothwell was reminded in playing spa worker Belinda, "those people we interact with in customer service in our day-to-day, they're people too."
"Sure, you might be on vacation, but you're human, I'm human and if you have a s--t day, I can have a s--t day too," she explained, adding that it's made her take a step back and approach situations with empathy, because everyone can make mistakes.
Yes, those missteps are exaggerated in The White Lotus, Bartlett admitted, but it's what makes the HBO series so good. He said, "That's what is so complex and wonderful about it is that [the characters] all incredibly flawed, but there's some moments where you kind of relate to them."
And though White touches on serious subjects, including race and gender, throughout the six episodes, Steve Zahn, who plays a dad going through a mid-life crisis, praised the director for "balancing" those topics with humor and perspective.
"It's such a great social satire [and] social commentary on class and money," the Daddy Daycare actor said, "and yet at the same time there's this backdrop of nature. And that is always grounded in all of these ridiculous problems that we have."
Zahn remarked that as they filmed on the beaches of Hawaii, they'd see "a whale breaching or like, a 120-year-old tortoise" and suddenly remember how "tiny" your problems actually are.
And the cast really did have those moments when they could stop to take in Hawaii's natural beauty, which, as far as Zahn is concerned, was a once in a lifetime opportunity. As Zahn put it, "It was one of the most unique experiences that I think we all collectively as a cast and crew have had and will never have again, just because of the obvious logistics involved with the pandemic."
Bartlett agreed with Zahn, stating, "I think we all felt incredibly free and excited to go to set. That was the sort of motivating thing where you're like, let's go play and that doesn't happen as often as you want it to."
All in all, the cast couldn't thank White enough for allowing them to be a part of the project, with Coolidge calling her role, which he specifically wrote for her, the "gift of all gifts."
So how did White create the show and foster an environment of such love and gratitude? When asked this question, he remained humble as ever, chalking it up to a great cast and a beautiful location. "Well, the truth was we were shooting during the quarantine, so I think everybody was just happy to be working," he said. "And then we were taking over the Four Seasons, which was pretty enviable."
The White Lotus airs Sundays on HBO.
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12 July, 2021 - 10:23pm
When The White Lotus opens, Shane Patton (Jake Lacy) looks rather unhappy in an airport. Fellow travelers ask him what resort he stayed at, and when he responds that it was White Lotus, they become concerned.
“Someone was killed there,” the wife says.
Shane confirms that the body remains are heading home from Hawaii on the plane they are about to board. However, viewers do not find out who died. When asked where Shane’s wife is, he becomes irate.
Then the episode flashes back to one week prior.
Next, The White Lotus travelers head to their tropical island resort on a fancy boat. Two of the guests, Oliva Mossbacher (Sydney Sweeney) and Paula (Brittany O’Grady), create background stories about the other VIP passengers aboard the boat. They guess that Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) and Shane Patton (Jake Lacy) met on Raya, a celebrity dating app.
When the VIP guests arrive at the resort, hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett), trainee Lani (Jolene Purdy), and spa director Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) help the new guests settle into the resort.
Belinda finds herself wrapped up in Tanya McQuoid’s (Jennifer Coolidge) life rather quickly. Tanya wanted a massage very severely, but there were no openings. Instead, Belinda offers her a Reiki massage. Tanya opens up to the director that her mother died in June and that she has attachment issues. Then Belinda holds Tanya’s head in her palms while chanting motivational, encouraging words that she instructs Tanya to repeat. Later, the single vacationer begs Armond to switch her next massage to Belinda.
Honeymooners Shane and Rachel immediately begin their vacation with a conflict because Shane believes they do not have the correct suite. So, he heads to Armond to argue about the virtual tour he saw online. The hotel manager thinks he accidentally double-booked the “Pineapple room,” but he doesn’t tell the guests.
Later, viewers find out that Rachel and Shane met recently and got married very quickly. Olivia and Paula grill Rachel by the pool with 20 questions. It turns out that she is a journalist and graduated from Suny Potsdam (State University of New York Potsdam). They find out that Shane’s family is very wealthy. When Rachel begins to ask questions back, the girls get quiet. However, they do admit that Olivia’s mother is the CEO of Poof.
Meanwhile, the newbie, Lani, is pregnant and hasn’t told anyone at the resort because it’s her first day. She worries that she’s going into labor, and then her water breaks on the lobby floor. Armond finds out that she is pregnant during the lobster bake and having the baby in his office.
Nicole Mossbacher (Connie Britton) yells at her daughter, Olivia, and her friend, Paula, for forcing Olivia’s brother to sleep in the small kitchen. However, Olivia retorts that he needs privacy to continue “fapping,” which is a term for male masturbation.
Meanwhile, Nicole’s husband, Mark Mossbacher (Steve Zahn), has a severe health crisis. He worries that he might have testicular cancer because of his enlarged testicles. Mark’s father died of cancer at age 46, so he’s convinced the same thing might happen to him. He decides to spend time with his son, Quinn (Fred Hechinger) and pulls the teenager out of the small kitchenette area.
When Mark and Quinn head to Armond to find something to do. After numerous ideas that the hotel manager shoots down, they settle on snorkeling. However, Mark is too preoccupied with his private area to snorkel with his son. Later, he tries to have a heart-to-heart with his son, but it’s pretty awkward. By the end of The White Lotus Episode 1, Mark finally gets a call from his doctor, but the show ends without telling viewers whether he has cancer.
Shane mentions the room issue during the lobster bake again, although he promised Rachel he wouldn’t. Later, Rachel worries that they might become an old couple with too much “baggage.” However, Shane reassures her that they will always be happy. The White Lotus Episode 1 ends with the newlyweds making out. However, it’s a creepy angle that might indicate someone watching through the windows.
The first guess is that Rachel somehow died on vacation since she’s not in the opening scene of The White Lotus Episode 1. However, another theory is that Mark’s unknown testicular issue takes a turn, and he died while at the resort. With the evidence viewers have so far, it could be any of the guests. At least the staff of the White Lotus resort seems to be ruled out.
HBO returns with the next installment of The White Lotus on July 18, 2021.
12 July, 2021 - 09:01pm
Each episode follows the vacation of several hotel guests as they relax at an exclusive Hawaiian resort. However, with each passing day, more complexities come to light among the travelers. So, how many episodes of The White Lotus will viewers get in total?
The White Lotus will air with a total of six episodes. The miniseries premiered on HBO on July 11 and will continue through the summer. Fans can expect the finale to air Sunday, Aug. 15. Finally, here is a breakdown of the episode titles and air dates:
Episode 1 — “Arrivals” (July 11)
Episode 2 — “New Day” (July 18)
Episode 3 — “Mysterious Monkeys” (July 25)
Episode 4 — “Recentering” (Aug. 1)
Episode 5 — “The Lotus-Eaters” (Aug. 8)
Episode 6 — “Departures” (Aug. 15)
The White Lotus episodes follow the story of several different groups of people on a week-long vacation in Hawaii. They inexplicably cross paths at the extravagant resort and things begin to take a turn. When the miniseries opens, hotel manager, Armond (Murray Bartlett) and spa director, Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) help the new guests settle in to the resort. Belinda finds herself wrapped up in Tanya McQuoid’s (Jennifer Coolidge) life rather quickly.
Meanwhile, Armond tries to smooth things over with Shane Patton (Jake Lacy) who isn’t pleased by anything. However, things get worse his wife, Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), finds her mother-in-law, Kitty (Molly Shannon), flew down for their honeymoon.
Later, family of four — The Mossbachers — deal with a serious yet comedic health scare. Mark Mossbacher (Steve Zahn) worries that he might have cancer as his wife, Nicole (Connie Britton) gapes at how swollen his private parts are. At first, he attempts to distract himself by hanging out with their son, Quinn Mossbacher (Fred Hechinger). Meanwhile, their daughter, Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and her friend, Paula (Brittany O’Grady) refer to Mark’s health problem as “swole balls.”
As viewers get hooked on the comedic satire of the HBO miniseries, they realize that The White Lotus episodes become more than a comedy. Director Mike White explained in a behind the scenes interview from HBO that he wanted to produce a contemporary show that also touched on inequalities.
“White Lotus is about the problems that people think that they have in comparison to real problems in the world,” Daddario said in the HBO interview.
May I interest you in a towelette for the premiere of The White Lotus tonight? Not sure why, but you never know when you'll need one. pic.twitter.com/XOjx1Wg51w
Additionally, the series delves into the behind-the-scenes feelings of the staff at the resort. They watch the upper-class mostly white people indulge, relax, and complain about their life at the same time. Finally, Olivia’s friend, Paula, begins to get annoyed with the Mossbachers’ ignorance about their status and privilege. The White Lotus is hilarious, yet uncomfortable, and real.
12 July, 2021 - 08:02pm
Two big-name stars joined The White Lotus cast as Nicole and Mark Mossbacher — Connie Britton and Steve Zahn. 54-year-old actor, singer, and producer Britton plays the demanding head of the Mossbacher family — Nicole. Britton’s filmography is extensive; from Friday Night Lights to Fox’s 9-1-1 series, she’s no stranger to the small or big screen.
Saving Silverman’s Steve Zahn plays Nicole’s on-screen husband, Mark Mossbacher, who has a serious, but hysterical health crisis. You probably recognize him from his roles in Modern Family as Ronnie LaFontaine or in Mad Dogs as Cobi.
Fear Street trilogy’s Fred Hechinger plays Quinn, Mark and Nicole’s teenage son. The 21-year-old is most known for playing Trevor in the coming-of-age movie Eighth Grade and Ethan Russell in the psychological thriller The Woman in the Window.
Sydney Sweeney plays the last member of the Mossbacher family — Olivia. Before she joined The White Lotus cast she had roles in The Handmaid’s Tale, Sharp Objects, or Euphoria. Additionally, Brittany O’Grady plays Olivia’s friend from college, Paula, who you might know from CW’s The Messengers or Apple TV+’s series Little Voice.
Alexandra Daddario joined The White Lotus cast as newlywed Rachel. However, her honeymoon takes a turn when her mother-in-law, Kitty (Molly Shanno), unexpectedly joins their getaway. Daddario started her acting career in All My Children and then moved on to the big screen with San Andreas and Baywatch roles.
Jake Lacy stars opposite Daddario as Rachel’s on-screen husband, Shane Patton. You probably recognize Lacy from his role in the ninth season of The Office as Pete Miller. The 36-year-old actor also starred in the ABC sitcom Better with You and the Showtime series; I’m Dying Up Here.
Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon rounds out the Patton family when she arrives unexpectedly at the resort as Kitty, Shane’s mother. Rachel is quite surprised to see her mother-in-law show up for her honeymoon. Shannon’s filmography is extensive. It includes roles in A Night at the Roxbury, Never Been Kissed, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Talladega Nights. Viewers might also remember her voice as Wanda in the Hotel Transylvania film series before she joined The White Lotus cast.
May I interest you in a towelette for the premiere of The White Lotus tonight? Not sure why, but you never know when you'll need one. pic.twitter.com/XOjx1Wg51w
Lastly, Jennifer Coolidge continues to make viewers laugh as part of The White Lotus cast. She’s the single traveler searching for love, Tanya McQuoid, who befriends the spa manager, Belinda (Natasha Rothwell). Viewers might recognize Coolidge as Jeanine Stiffler in American Pie or Paulette in both Legally Blonde movies.
Former SNL writer Rothwell ends up wrapped in Tanya’s life at the resort for the week. You might recognize the 40-year-old actor and comedian from her role in HBO’s Insecure. Finally, Murray Bartlett joined The White Lotus cast as the resort manager, Armond. According to Vox, the 50-year-old Australian actor got his big break in 2002 when he guest-starred as Carrie Bradshaw’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) gay best friend in Sex and the City. Then he moved to the soap opera Guiding Light as Cyrus Foley.
12 July, 2021 - 05:04pm
HBO Max’s six-episode series pits the rich vs. everyone else in familiar, stinging ways
Like Mike White’s previous cult-classic HBO series Enlightened, his new series revels in making viewers uncomfortable. The White Lotus is six episodes of ultra-rich, self-involved white people pushing resort staff around while whining about their low-stakes problems. At times, the series sticks with the VIP guests too long, to the detriment of staff and side characters who could be more richly explored. Even so, the show is must-see TV, an incisive look into the psyches of the rich and the damage they leave in their wake.
With The White Lotus, White has assembled a stellar cast of HBO alums and prestige actors. The VIPs include the Mossbacher family, made up of tech CEO Nicole (Connie Britton), “nice guy” husband Mark (Steve Zahn), college-aged daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), and teenage son Quinn (Fred Hechinger). Olivia brings along her college friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady), who serves as her sidekick in recreational drug use and parental antagonization, leaving Quinn to be the loner wandering the hotel with his Switch in hand.
The show spends a lot of time getting into the guests’ mindsets and exploring how they think about each other. It dives into not just the relationships between the families, but also how the groups interact and make assumptions about each other. It’s an interesting depiction of how personal egos lead in conversations with strangers, but eventually, watching the guests talk to each other becomes tedious. The interactions between the VIP guests and the hotel staff are the best part of the series, as White forces the audience to consider what the White Lotus’s employees have to sacrifice to provide comfort for the obnoxious VIPs.
That sense of sacrifice is most potent in Armand’s storyline. The series starts with the hotel manager in control, showing the ropes of service with a smile to a trainee (Jolene Purdy). Armand compares the work of staff to “tropical kabuki,” hiding behind a constant plastered smile. He’s effective in his job, but when he puts on the mask and zooms in on his guests’ needs, he lacks perspective on the world around him. An incident in the first episode where Armand misses something big shakes him to his core, and it’s the beginning of a mental decline exacerbated by Shane, who escalates an overbooked room into an all-out war. Bartlett (Looking) gives an excellent performance as a tortured man struggling to hold it all together.
In a smaller but no less skillful performance, as spa manager Belinda, Natasha Rothwell (Insecure) has to navigate Tanya’s attentions. After an intense holistic treatment, Tanya becomes dependent on Belinda, returning to her for massages and inviting her to share meals. It’s a cutting depiction of a white woman leaning on a Black woman for emotional support, one that could be grating if Rothwell and Coolidge (American Pie, Legally Blonde) weren’t masterful about handling the nuance. Coolidge’s revelatory performance has been heavily praised, and Rothwell deserves just as much recognition as an actor best-known for comedy, but offering a nuanced dramatic performance.
There’s been a successful micro-trend lately in putting the mega-rich under a satirical spotlight, in films and shows like Parasite and Succession. The White Lotus tells an incisive tale about how much the rich cavalierly demand of the less fortunate, but it focuses more on the VIPs than the staff, to its own detriment. It’s a show that brings up more questions than solutions, and offers more cringes than laughs. It might even make people rethink any post-vaccination urges for a tropical trip.
12 July, 2021 - 02:10pm
Or, in The White Lotus’ case, the body. It is not a horror series, but as the show’s flash-forwarded opening sequence promises, there will be a corpse, and leading up to it, much bloodless class warfare. (White, who previously made HBO’s adored, but underwatched and eventually canceled Enlightened has surely observed that there is nothing on TV that gooses a miniseries’ ratings quite like a whodunit.) On the side of the grotesquely rich are the Mossbachers, a family of four with a guest in tow. The bread earner is Nicole (Connie Britton), a founder and CEO who reeks of lean-in feminism while espousing heartfelt concern for young white men’s foreclosed opportunities. She’s married to Mark (Steve Zahn), who is not nearly such a caricature, but is lost in his beta-husband identity. Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), their daughter, has brought along her college friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady). Paula isn’t white or nearly as rich as the Mossbachers, but she joins Olivia in ice-cold eye rolling when she’s not canoodling with one of the staffers. Meanwhile, their son, Quinn (Fred Hechinger), is sweet, awkward, masturbating, and fixated on his phone.
The other guests include Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya McQuoid, who arrives with her mother’s ashes and a whole lot of emotional baggage and becomes an emotional succubus on Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), the soothing spa manager who has a knack for helping white ladies but wants more.* And then there are the newlyweds, Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), who has married into money and is just realizing what that means, and Shane, played by an incandescently unbearable Jake Lacy, an entitled man baby who engages in a series of ever-escalating conflicts with the resort’s tightly wound manager, Armond (Murray Bartlett), who begins to unspool.
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Initially, the satire on The White Lotus laps in like the waves: deceptively gentle. White’s last HBO series was Enlightened, a cult favorite starring Laura Dern as abrasive dreamer Amy Jellicoe, and he’s adept at observing his protagonists with a kind of sympathetic objectivity, their flaws and strengths backlit. (Britton’s Nicole, the most like Amy Jellicoe on paper, is also the character the series is least interested in: She only ever gets her one note.) Coolidge’s Tanya, for example, uses money to buy the emotional support she genuinely needs: She’s appreciative and myopic, a mess who makes one everywhere she goes. A revelation about his own father pushes Zahn’s Mark to try and tell the truth of his own life, which leads to a number of wildly inappropriate, if bizarrely well-meant disclosures about his marriage. The series does have its favorites—Quinn and Belinda are almost entirely sympathetic—while Lacy’s Shane is its villain.
As the characters bump into one another in the first few episodes, there’s a chewiness to the social interactions that calls to mind Succession on Vacation, the kind of show that would lend itself to detailed recaps about the subtextual power dynamics in every interaction. But as the show goes on, it exposes its deterministic backbone. The characters are caught up in an inexorable class dialectic and as the series unfolds , preordained to make certain moves—which, not for nothing, is also what happens in a tragedy.
By the end of the six-episode miniseries, the farce is still ongoing, but the joke is thinking that things could have turned out any other way. Fates were always sealed. The myopically entitled uberrich have gotten the vacation they wanted thanks to the pain and suffering of the employees, and the two guests inhabiting a middle ground—i.e., not there on their own bankroll—have only succeeded in making things worse. It’s only the rich who can float through life untouched, insulated not only from consequences but from self-knowledge or the desire to make things more equitable. They don’t need to be on vacation to exist in a bubble.
Where The White Lotus ends up is, in some ways, the slyest joke of all. The Love Boat with class tensions, a smart summer soap, is fundamentally fatalist—and less riotously, a bit didactic. Still I wonder if The White Lotus’ indictment of class and race privilege doesn’t lose a bit of its bite from the company it keeps. Succession, Big Little Lies, The Undoing, Gossip Girl, Made for Love: The HBO lineup is currently abundant with dramas about extremely rich, miserable white people. But is eviscerating them not just another way to stay slavishly fixated? It’s time HBO got interested in another kind of guest.
Correction, July 12, 2021: This post originally misspelled Jennifer Coolidge’s first name.
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