Where was the White Lotus filmed?
The beauty of the six-part “White Lotus” is that while its gorgeous setting – it was filmed at the Four Seasons Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui during the pandemic – may make you wish you were there, the nauseating nature of some of the guests will make you decidedly glad you're not stuck next to them reclining ... HaaretzSavor HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’ – it could be the closest you get to a vacation this summer
12 July, 2021 - 03:19pm
Connie Britton stars in HBO's "The White Lotus," an ensemble comedy about the wealthy and privileged causing havoc at an exclusive Hawaiian resort.
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Actors Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Steve Zahn and Murray Bartlett of HBO Max's upcoming "The White Lotus" say they felt both lucky and sometimes guilty about filming the miniseries in a bubble in Hawaii at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. (July 8) AP Entertainment
There's nothing quite like a nice vacation. Just hope that, if you ever book a beach getaway, Mike White isn't scripting it.
The supremely talented comedian, writer and director ("Enlightened") is back on HBO with "The White Lotus" (premiering Sunday, 9 EDT/PDT, ★★★½ out of four), a biting new miniseries about the wealthy – and the staffers who serve them – at an exclusive Hawaiian resort. For fans of White's deathly sharp comedy, "Lotus" is a triumphant, deliriously funny satire of the privileged classes against a gorgeous backdrop. For those who don't know White well, it's an exuberant comedy that might introduce them to his other work, such as Laura Dern's HBO vehicle "Enlightened."
"Lotus" begins with a mystery: At the luxurious White Lotus resort, someone has died. We don't know who and we don't know how. The series flashes back to the days leading up to the death, introducing a colorful cast of characters (nearly all of them despicable) who could be the victim or killer.
But quickly, the murder mystery becomes less important as the events at the Lotus unfold. The guests include Connie Britton as Nicole, a tech CEO attempting to wrangle her hapless husband (Steve Zahn) and awful teen children Olivia and Quinn (Sydney Sweeney and Fred Hechinger) and Olivia's friend Paula (Brittany O'Grady); Jennifer Coolidge as the emotionally unstable Tanya, on vacation to scatter her mother's ashes; and Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy asnewlyweds Rachel and Shane (Molly Shannon hilariously shows up in later episodes, although naming her character might spoil the surprise of her entrance). Working at the hotel are chameleon manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) and spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell, "Insecure"), each of whom is taken advantage of, extolled and belittled by the guests.
What happens in "Lotus" isn't as important as how the characters react to it, a trick at which White excels. Bartlett, an Australian actor with a nice-guy face and hidden depths of comedic potential, is the series' true standout. A feud that develops between Armond and spoiled rich boy Shane is among the most entertaining and shocking of events, and watching Armond attempt a smiling, pleasant façade as Shane acts more outrageously is sublime.
But everyone is putting in exceptional work. Daddario, relegated to roles as arm candy and mistresses for much of her career, finally gets a chance to step forward with something meatier, playinga confident young woman swept away by a wealthy, handsome beau before she realized he wants to control her. Coolidge, best known for her roles in "American Pie" and "Legally Blonde," also does some of her best work as insecure and needy Tanya, who latches onto kind Belinda, oblivious to the consequences of being the financially powerful person in a relationship.
Britton and Zahn are surprisingly effective foils as a flaky career woman who isn't interested in breaking any glass ceiling that doesn't involve her, and her pushover husbandwho veers from one emotional extreme to the next. With its teen characters, White and the "Lotus" writers understand something that few other modern series do: That while technology and clothes might have changed with Generation Z, teenagers are still mostly just dumb jerks.
Amid the Hawaiian high jinks and gorgeous backdrops, "Lotus" goes deeper into its dissection of wealth inequality, and is blisteringly critical of all involved, no matter how well-intentioned. When idealistic Paula thinks she can help a native Hawaiian bellboy she's crushing on, it goes disastrously wrong in a way that conveniently doesn't harm her. White may hate the odious oligarchy of wealth he portrays, but he isn't naive enough to suggest that the powerful will ever be punished for their misdeeds.
"Lotus" may be cynical, but it is not depressingly so. The brilliance in the series is its balance: never too cringeworthy, too shocking, too slapstick. It's the Goldilocks level of just right, and enormously entertaining for all six episodes.
But it might make you think twice about visiting Hawaii.
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12 July, 2021 - 03:26am
It’s frequently funny and absurd but this expensive new HBO series can also induce anxiety and indigestion.
Jennifer Coolidge in The White Lotus. Picture: FoxtelSource:Supplied
Maybe Scott Morrison knew Australians wouldn’t be going on a Hawaiian resort holiday for many years when he dragged his feet coming home at the start of 2020.
It wasn’t a failure of leadership, it was clairvoyance!
Anyway, now we’re locked within our borders, dreams of pina colados while lei-ed up are merely a distant dream from a different time.
So maybe the next best thing is lavish Foxtel* drama The White Lotus – but only if you don’t mind a bout of indigestion to go with that breakfast buffet.
A social satire created by Mike White (School of Rock, Enlightened), The White Lotus is a blistering take on the gaping chasm between those who can afford to stay at an expensive resort and those who can only afford to work there.
But its representation of entitled rich white people might be too effective, because many of the monstrous characters are so unpleasant, sometimes the reaction is to turn it off out of anxiety, rather just laugh at them.
Jolene Purdy and Murray Bartlett in the first episode of The White Lotus.Source:Supplied
Take for example, honeymooner Shane Patton (played against type by usual nice guy Jake Lacy), the scion of a wealthy family. How his family has money or how much they have aren’t important, because he oozes privilege.
He has the air of someone who has never been refused – to him rejection is as alien as seeing a Bengal tiger act as a David Jones greeter. So, when he realises his opulent suite isn’t the room he booked, he’s incensed.
Never mind the room is larger than many people’s homes or that it has ocean views. What it’s not is the best room in the hotel – and the second-best room in the hotel will not stand. Across six episodes, Shane and the hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) will end up in a escalating, passive-aggressive tete-a-tete over something so trivial.
The White Lotus is a blistering take on wealth and privilege.Source:Supplied
Then there’s Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya, a single traveller on a quest to spread her mother’s ashes who’s as neurotic as she is needy. She latches onto the spa’s manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) with effusive praise of her talent and the dangled promise of investing in it.
And then there are the Mossbachers, with high achiever mum Nicole (Connie Britton), dad Mark (Steve Zahn), device-obsessed son Quinn (Fred Hechinger) and college-aged daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney). Olivia has invited along her friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady).
The interactions over this week at the resort are incredibly frustrating to watch, which is why The White Lotus’ greatest strength – that adroit ability to really hit home the utter obscenity of unthinking wealth – is also its weakness.
Because it’s not revelatory or new.
If any viewer genuinely learns something or feels challenged to reflection by The White Lotus’ commentary about the haves-and-have-nots, about the colonisation of native lands (in this case, a Hawaiian island which was practically stolen from its Indigenous population who now serve the guests for a crappy wage), or the smugness of progressive white allies, then they haven’t been paying attention.
Connie Britton previously worked with Mike White in Beatriz at Dinner.Source:Supplied
Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O’Grady in The White Lotus.Source:Supplied
That kind of class commentary has been bread and butter of storytelling for years now and without a more cohesive story giving it narrative momentum, it often becomes a series of vignettes involving awful, irredeemable people who never make the right choice – and whether that’s entertaining or even stomachable really depends on your mileage.
The series is inconsistent and it takes a couple of episodes to settle in and doesn’t really hit its full stride until midway through the six-episode season. The back half of the show is much stronger than the early wobbly episodes if you make it past.
But when it does work, The White Lotus can be wickedly absurd with a cracker pace that oscillates between biting comedy and pure farce, underpinned by the tragedy of exploitation and indifference.
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