‘The White Lotus’ Mixes Tropical Delight With Cold Class Warfare


The Ringer 12 July, 2021 - 05:15am 9 views

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

The White Lotus lobs its first darkly comedic curveball right out of the gate.

In Sunday’s opening scene of Enlightened auteur Mike White’s six-episode HBO’s limited series, an intensely gloomy and classically handsome dude by the name of Shane Patton (played by Office alum Jake Lacy) is sitting alone in a Hawaiian airport when an inquisitive couple begins grilling him about his travel plans. He reluctantly divulges that a murder took place at The White Lotus resort he had been honeymooning at with his new bride, and the corpse is being transported on the plane he is waiting to board. When the busybodies ask him where his wife is, he abruptly ends the interrogation, which, in turn, raises this tantalizing question: Is Mrs. Patton the victim?!

Before we can get an answer, the action flashes back “one week earlier,” to Shane and his other half Rachel’s (Why Women Kill‘s Alexandra Daddario) white glove, maritime-themed arrival at The White Lotus. Also checking into the swanky aisle of paradise and privilege on this fateful day are a family of five (plus one friend) headed by A-list exec Nicole Mossbacher (Friday Night Lights MVP Connie Britton) and her neurotic hubby Mark (Treme‘s Steve Zahn), as well as scatterbrained heiress-in-mourning Tanya McQuoid (the inimitable Jennifer Coolidge).

We’re also introduced to a handful of White Lotus staffers, including assiduous resort manager Armond (Looking‘s Murray Bartlett), cool, slightly kooky spa director Belinda (Insecure‘s Natasha Rothwell) and frazzled, stealthily pregnant trainee Lina (Orange Is the New Black‘s Jolene Purdy).

White, who wrote and directed all six episodes, spends much of the opening hour getting us acquainted with the new guests, most notably Shane and Rachel. The newlyweds’ trip gets off to a rocky start when Shane — who, twist!, is super-entitled asshat all the time, not just in airports — becomes singularly, psychotically focused on proving that White Lotus management knowingly relegated them to a Presidential Ocean View Suite vs. the plunge pool-suffused honeymoon suite they were promised.

“Forget about the other room,” Rachel later begs her hubs. “Let’s just enjoy our honeymoon.”

I’m calling it: If Rachel does indeed turn out to be victim teased in the prologue it was death by suicide.

Meanwhile, Coolidge’s Tanya — who is traveling with her dead mother’s soon-to-be-scattered ashes — is singularly, psychotically focused on getting a massage. All the therapists are booked for the evening, but Rothwell’s Belinda — realizing the crazy lady is not going to take no for an answer — offers to give Tanya a bizarrely narrated craniosacral instead. The unorthodox treatment goes over so well with the grieving socialite that she begins crushing hard on Belinda, which hopefully portends more Rothwell/Coolidge magic in the next five episodes.

Nicole and Mark are navigating a crisis of their own; the latter suspects he has “testicle” cancer. Said calamity is brought to our attention via an extreme close-up of Zahn’s (or his body double’s) genitalia. “Are they bigger?” Nicole wonders aloud, Britton’s hilariously unfazed eye line now in the direct path of her TV hubby’s junk. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen them.”

To take his mind off of his possibly diseased cobblers, Mark takes Nicole’s suggestion and spends the day snorkeling with their gamer-obsessed son Quinn (Underground Railroad‘s Fred Hechinger). It becomes evident that the diversion has not been successful when Quinn asks his dad, “Why do you keep looking at your d–k?”

Newbie White Lotus staffer Lina is trying mightily not to give birth on Day 1 of her new job. Her mission fails when she goes into labor in the lobby, creating an unprecedented crisis for her bossman Armond.

A top contender for my favorite scene of the episode: Nicole and Mark’s deeply cynical daughter Olivia (Euphoria‘s Sydney Sweeney) and her BFF Paula (Star‘s Brittany O’Grady) conduct a riotously cruel poolside cross examination of (maybe) dead woman walking Rachel.

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The White Lotus Miniseries Premiere Review - "Arrivals"

IGN 12 July, 2021 - 04:15pm

Mike White, the writer/actor behind School of Rock and HBO's smart-but-small Enlightened, is back with a new satirical look at privilege and dysfunction in The White Lotus. This series is a deeply unsettling but quietly hilarious look at wealthy guests attempting to unwind, as a posh Hawaiian resort (the titular White Lotus) and the staff whose job it is to pamper them and treat them like "special chosen baby" children.

In a wise bit of mentoring by White Lotus manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) to a first-day trainee played by Jolene Purdy, he explains that guests of the White Lotus are inclined to make a fuss about things to feel seen. Complaints are rarely about the money and more about feeling important and acknowledged. Immediately, this likens the main characters we follow -- played by the likes of Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jake Lacy -- to infants, and in turn allows the viewer to watch them through an entirely different, and funnier, lens. This character-building approach helps because these are all sublimely frustrating and unnerving characters to behold.

The more we watch how Armond caters to them, while also manipulating them and playing off their insecurities and peculiarities, the more The White Lotus can blossom into something more than just a parade of mostly awful people. Kind of like how HBO's Succession can transcend beyond the fact that it's showcasing fundamentally rotten people and transcend into a new form of engrossing hilarity. Also, Armond still has to frantically put out fires in a fun Basil Fawlty manner, so there's farce thrown in to liven up some of the dryer, more cynical humor involving fundamentally miserable folks with untreated and unaddressed emotional issues.

In "Arrival," the premiere episode of this six-episode limited series, we meet the central players while also finding ourselves within "TV-trope of the past few decades," the in media res opening, in which the story kicks off one week after the events of the series, revealing that someone has died during their stay at the White Lotus. Someone perhaps connected to Jake Lacy's "his family's rich" Shane, with the top suspect being Shane's new bride Rachel, played by Alexandra Daddario. As we meet them both minutes later, diving into the main story, we learn that the two don't know each other very well despite having just gotten married. Though she ostensibly married him for his money, she's kind, while he is a profoundly bitter and disquieted soul who exemplifies the aforementioned need to feel important.

It feels clunky to embed this tale with, almost, a murder mystery narrative, but it's also as if Mike White realized that to get viewers to sit with a selection of needy and empty rich people the story required one of them to die. And for us to know this from the start. Most every trial, or issue, that befalls these guests is, at the root of it about something else. Whether it's Shane complaining about his room or Steve Zahn's Mark frantically waiting to hear important medical test results from the mainland -- or even Steve's wife, Nicole (Connie Britton), not seeming too concerned about said test -- the actual problem facing these folks is exacerbated by some other underlying unhappiness in their life.

Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya, for example, who freely admits to becoming toxically attached to people, starts to become unhealthily fixated on spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) after receiving a completely impromptu and half-hearted scalp massage from her. What was just part of a job for Belinda, in which she had to improvise as someone in the hospitality field, is seen as a direct and special connection by Tanya, who has no social or spatial awareness whatsoever. A resort like The White Lotus is designed to make people feel like they're the center of the universe, which is ultimately the only sensation ultra-wealthy people can chase. When you can buy anything, all that's left is reshaping your own reality to the best of your ability. It makes for some truly awkward, but also rewarding, comedy.

Have you watched The White Lotus?

The White Lotus Review: A Hysterically Bizarre Series With a Phenomenal Cast

Collider 12 July, 2021 - 04:15pm

Set at the title resort over the course of a week, The White Lotus follows a group of rich vacationers and the staff who will attempt to give their visitors a trip they won’t forget. Amongst those staying for the week are the snobby Shane (Jake Lacy) and his newlywed wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario); tech CEO Nicole Mossbacher (Connie Britton) and her husband Mark (Steve Zahn), who have brought along their tech-obsessed son Quinn (Fred Hechinger), their vicious daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), and her best friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady); and Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), who has come to scatter her mother’s ashes.

White, who has written and directed all six episodes, makes each of these groupings interesting in their own bubbles, yet makes these dynamics even more fascinating once they start intermingling with each other and the hotel staff. Tanya heads to the resort’s spa to relieve some tension, where she befriends masseuse Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) and motivates her new friend to start her own business with Tanya’s help. Shane begins his own rivalry with Armond over his room, while Rachel simply wants her new husband to let things go. Meanwhile, the Mossbacher family has several awkward encounters with another guest, a bag of drugs is lost, a vacation fling causes immediate jealousy, and lost characters find their own sense of purpose.

While many of these stories end in a way that could have been predicted from the first episode, White’s writing and the performances make the journey through this miniseries worth it. Coolidge, Daddario, and Zahn in particular are standouts, giving some of the most nuanced and surprising performances of their careers, and the entire cast is packed with characters full of self-absorption, self-righteous fighting for others, and a complete lack of self-awareness. Though most of these guests are mostly ignorant about their actions, Daddario’s Rachel spends her vacation trying to figure out the next step in her life, even while her new husband won’t stop complaining about the accommodations. Having married into her newfound wealth, Rachel is one of the few guests that can see both sides of this guest-employee dynamic. Even when Rachel isn’t vocal about her objections, Daddario is giving the audience her character’s entire feelings just through her performance — primarily her eyes, which speak volumes.

The staff of The White Lotus also isn’t without their share of problems, but these characters are also more than just what they present to the guests, which might explain why they also feel more layered. Bartlett and Rothwell end up the true stars of The White Lotus because of this, as we see both of them in one of the most frustrating weeks of their careers. Rothwell has a cautious optimism to her character, as she puts maybe too much trust in her newfound bond with Tanya. But it’s Bartlett who is extremely dynamic and steals every scene he’s in. As Armond, Bartlett’s ability to shift his attitude from one guest to the next is amusing and honest, a character who is so clearly sick of the resort’s visitors, yet still — up to a point — wants to give these people a good time. Bartlett is trying his best to absorb the pressure of his job and the picky guests, but it’s clear from very early on that he’s had almost too much of this job already. The White Lotus is full of excellent performances from actors the audience already likely knows and loves, but after years of great work, this is a star-making performance by Bartlett.

But the larger focus of White’s miniseries is that dynamic between the rich and those who can’t afford to go spend a week on a Hawaii vacation. Even when the guests show an altruistic attitude towards their hosts, it’s clear that their actions and empty kindness will end up hurting these people more than help. Frequently around the Mossbacher table, the family discusses the hypocrisies of people with wealth, yet those speaking never have the perception that they’re the biggest hypocrites of all. It’s the obliviousness of these characters that White taps into with great effect. At one point late in the series, one of the guests confides all their problems that we’ve seen over the show to one of the employees, who reacts as if they can’t believe these are the issues the rich are having. Even if White doesn’t belittle the problems of the guests, it becomes clear that these issues with money and slightly better rooms and privilege are the kind of complaints the employees of The White Lotus wish they could have.

White’s past work makes him the perfect person to tell this story, as he knows how to write melodrama, having created the soap opera Pasadena and written for Dawson’s Creek; he’s also written smart ensemble stories like School of Rock and Beatriz at Dinner, and he knows how to utilize uncomfortable moments in stories that blend comedy and drama into something new, thanks to his work on Freaks and Geeks and Enlightened. Between White’s twisty and intertwining story and his assured directing, eight years after the conclusion of Enlightened, White has returned to HBO with a miniseries that certainly feels in touch with his strengths.

However, The White Lotus does occasionally lose the thread on some of its stories. A character who seems integral to this story in the first episode disappears and is only quickly mentioned one other time. Interactions between Shane, Rachel, and members of the Mossbacher family are fun in the moment, but don’t end up serving any larger purpose by the end of the series, and Nicole especially is a cog in the stories going on around her rather than a fully fleshed-out character. But again, it’s still a joy to see this odyssey that White has crafted play itself out, even if not every decision leads to something essential to the story.

The White Lotus is a surprising, peculiar, and yet extremely prescient miniseries with a hauntingly beautiful score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer and a tremendous ensemble. In the last few years, HBO has become the home to several unconventional miniseries, but The White Lotus is one of the funniest, most addictive, and most unusual miniseries to come out from HBO in quite some time. The White Lotus doesn’t just herald White’s welcome return to HBO, it’s also the perfect hysterically bizarre summer series to get lost in.

Grade: A-

The White Lotus airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO, streaming afterward on HBO Max.

How HBO satire 'The White Lotus' hit uncomfortably close to home for creator Mike White

USA TODAY 12 July, 2021 - 04:15pm

More than feelings are hurt in guest-staff skirmishes in HBO's 'The White Lotus,' Mike White's satire of the privileged elite in a Hawaiian paradise.

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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

Money is the root of all satire in HBO's "The White Lotus."

Specifically, well-heeled white vacationers at a Hawaiian resort are the targets of writer-director Mike White's barbed take on class and privilege in the six-episode limited series (Sundays, 9 EDT/PDT; also streaming on HBO Max).

"Lotus" explores "how money – and who has the money – can pervert even the most intimate relationships, and how it courses through all our relationships," White says. 

Resort guests include dominant tech exec Nicole (Connie Britton) and her insecure husband Mark (Steve Zahn), an out-of-balance power couple accompanied by their two teen children and a friend; needy Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), grieving the loss of her mother who forms an awkward bond with helpful spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell); and honeymooner Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), increasingly horrified about her new partner, the petty, self-satisfied Shane (Jake Lacy). 

The arrival of Shane's mother (Molly Shannon), there to help him deal with his eternal dissatisfaction over having to settle for the resort's second-best suite, might not be the stuff of honeymoon dreams. "I do not think that bodes well for the future of that marriage," Lacy says.

Navigating this hard-to-please assortment is White Lotus resort manager Armond (Murray Bartlett), who's obsequious to – and scornful of – his guests.

Thanks to an opening bomb dropped by White, it's immediately clear that this combustible mix of humanity will result in more than hurt feelings. One unfortunate member of this troupe will leave the island in a coffin, a mystery designed to lure in viewers for a later payoff.

 In "Lotus," White ("Enlightened," "School of Rock")  says he wanted to "unpack the boogeyman of the rich, white, privileged person" while avoiding one-dimensional caricatures. 

"If they're just ogres, the audience can just say, 'Those people are that and I'm this virtuous person,' " he says. "I felt like if I did it right, it would be more indicting. You hope you see yourself a little bit in the characters so you can't just" dismiss them.

White recognized a bit of Shane in himself recently when his San Diego hotel room wasn't ready on time. "I was literally that guy. I was like, 'The room was supposed to be ready at 4,' and I'm looking at this woman behind the desk (knowing) this is not her fault, but at the same time, she's (deceiving) me."

For people who appear to have it all, unhappiness arises when you can't live up to your public facade, Britton says. 

"Nicole and Mark are desperately trying to comply with societal convention in terms of having the perfect marriage and being the perfect parents. She's hyper-successful, he feels insecure and emasculated. So they have contempt for each other, and yet it's mostly because they're not fulfilling" cultural expectations, Britton says.

Armond, who's struggling to maintain sobriety, is at a midpoint in the status ladder. He panders to guests while barely – and hilariously – concealing his disdain for those "entitled, obnoxious people," as Bartlett calls them. But he also rides roughshod over the resort staff, and his battle with ever-complaining Shane is a "Lotus" highlight.

"I love the lack of sensitivity different characters have, depending on where they fall in that hierarchy," he says. Belinda, who runs the spa, "has a lot of self-awareness and is very sensitive. Armond, because he's in a power position in the hotel, does at times treat the people under him crappy, but he has enough self-awareness at moments to see through what's going on and to feel horrified at some of his behavior."

Money may be the worst thing for Tanya, who's mourning her mother's death with plans to scatter her ashes at the idyllic resort, Coolidge says.

"So many people think that wealth is going to fix their problems. They couldn't possibly believe it could lead to more isolation and unhappiness," she says. "It seems like it would repair so many things, but if you're lonely and have never been loved in the right way, you are kind of doomed if you have a lot of money."

Filming on location at the Four Seasons resort in Maui late last year,the series required extensive COVID-19 protocols, but those constraints yielded an unexpected benefit.

"Because we were in a bubble, we were with each other 24/7. And when the actors weren't working, they were still together on the beach or sitting around the hotel," White says. "It felt like a real repertory vibe."

When the resort reopened to regular guests during filming, it was a surprise and an eye-opener for cast members, Zahn says.

"It freaked us out a little bit because it's the middle of the pandemic and now there's people coming there," he says. "But it was really interesting to see the people we were playing come to the resort. Like, oh, here's who we are." 

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