Picture the dinner party from hell, during which every race, class and gender issue is touched on without any direct mention. Now fly this dinner party to the gorgeous 5-star White Lotus hotel in Hawaii and throw in a murder for good measure. You have Mike White’s genius new comedy-drama, The White Lotus.
In The White Lotus, White creates a battleground for modern opinion, inviting his characters to unknowingly fight their corner. We are left with a searing criticism of class and comfort, all under the beating Hawaiian sun. It begins with a death, mysterious in nature and the catalyst for an age-old whodunnit narrative. Skip back to the start of the holiday, where we are greeted by resort manager Armond (Murray Bartlett in outstanding form) who sets the mood of the series by reminding his employee that the role of the humble staff member is “to disappear behind our masks”. From this point onwards, we see that the worker is to be a blank slate on which the customer projects their every whim and desire, during which their most ghastly traits cannot help but slip out.
Whilst there’s a sumptuous setting, it’s White’s masterful characters (acted by a top-notch cast) who carry the show. Newlyweds Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) and Shane (Jake Lacy) expose the social snags of modern relationships, whilst Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) heedlessly recreates a pre-civil war race relation with her massage therapist Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), all whilst the Mossbacher family offer a tautly funny critique of wokeness and its tendency to divide generations.
The classic narrative of ‘trouble in paradise’ mimics the whimsical complaints of the show’s privileged characters, whilst the knowledge of a suspicious death forces the viewer to engage and question the frivolous problems of the characters. This is achieved by what The Telegraph’s Benji Wilson describes as writing “precise in its pacing”, with “uniformly terrific” performances, and character destruction “by a form of narrative water torture”. The beach setting will make you feel like you are finally on that holiday which was inevitably cancelled earlier in the year – but there is to be no relaxing at this resort, as the hotel is, as Ed Cumming in the Independent describes “a microcosm of America, with a full suite of anxieties, neuroses and peccadilloes on display.”
First shown August 2021.