The new HBO series, which will also be launched on Monday, July 12 on Sky Deutschland in the original sound on demand, takes viewers to a remote dream beach in Hawaii. But in the new six-part miniseries by writer and director Mike White (“Enlightened”), “Love Boat” romance and adrenaline adventures à la Steve and Danno have no place. Rather, the supposed dream hotel becomes the background for a cutting and well-observed satire about entitlement, ritualized pleasure and “those up there” – as uniform as they may be in the world presented here.
They put on their widest smile, as they have done hundreds of times. Hotel Manager Armond (Murray Bartlett – “Looking”), Spa Manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) and her team are the new group of guests at the luxury resort The White Lotus Welcome. The practiced waving contains the implicit promise to read every small or difficult wish from the eyes of the newcomers during their stay.
This claim is immediately put to a hard test when Belinda fails to organize a spontaneous massage appointment for Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge, “2 Broke Girls”), who is traveling alone. In the end, she has no choice but to make herself available to the elegant lady who literally has her deceased mother in her luggage – in a white plastic bag that almost spills when she checks in.
Behind their professional, friendly faces, Armond and Belinda are already clear: these rich guests are like children and that’s how they should be treated. It’s not about the money, they just want to be seen. So Tanya blossoms after her treatment with Belinda downright to new life, which she unfortunately wants to attach quite strongly to her hostess.
On the other hand, Quinn Mossbacher (Fred Hechinger), the son of the super-rich couple Nicole (Connie Britton, “9-1-1 Notruf L.A.”) and Mark (Steve Zahn, “Treme”), who hardly ever wants to part with his mobile phone and his game console, just wants to have his peace and quiet. So Quinn doesn’t mind being locked in the kitchen to sleep by his hardened older sister Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and her best friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady). The main thing is silence, video games and pornographic self-empowerment.
At the same time, father Mark insists that his successful entrepreneur wife look at his eggs up close again after a long time – literally. Mark is very afraid of having testicular cancer and only a call from the doctor on the mainland could give the all-clear. Nicole does what she obviously does best, even in her successful tech company: managing the situation, appeasing and the
Company Family Holidays keep it going.
Armond’s motto is also to dismiss and appease when it comes to the newlywed couple Patton (Jake Lacy, “Girls”) and Rachel (Alexandra Daddario, “Why Women Kill”). For the good son from a wealthy family, the honeymoon turns into a crusade for a larger hotel suite, which he is convinced he has booked before the trip. That he and his wife would have to spend this special time in the second largest suite of the house? An imposition. Meanwhile, freelance journalist Rachel stumbles into a rather suboptimal encounter with her great idol Nicole Mossbacher, pretty much just as she may have stumbled into her marriage.
Already in the first minutes of “The White Lotus” it is clear: At the end of this one-week luxury stay we will have a dead main character. But is it Rachel? In any case, right at the beginning of the terminal, Patton has a clear view of how airport workers transport a well-packed corpse on the holiday plane back to Honolulu.
Fortunately, the HBO miniseries does not degenerate into a search for murderers and perpetrators within a very short time. Series creator Mike White proves to be an extraordinary observer of behavioral patterns and dynamics, whether in the hotel staff, the Mossbacher family or the still young marriage, which is served by AnThere is practically no chance of survival.
It’s actually similar with “The White Lotus” itself. The opening sequence is only partially convincing, throwing those balls into the air with which it is necessary to juggle afterwards. This then succeeds better and better with each further episode and even particularly eccentric and initially annoying characters such as Golden Boy Patton or the sarcastic cliché millennial Olivia develop their charm.
The cast is strong enough to compensate for some weaknesses over long distances. Connie Britton is reliably multi-layered as magnate Nicole and thanks to Steve Zahn she has a deeply sympathetic, if always latently disturbed companion at her side in Mark. Son Quinn, particularly accurately embodied by Fred Hechinger, goes through one of the most interesting developments within the miniseries as a character, although it may be somewhat predictable.
Jennifer Coolidge is just a walking pleasure as grieving individual guest Tanya and her new personal connection to spa manager Belinda is quickly becoming one of the most interesting storylines in the series. How much personal affection connects the two women, service provider and guest, rich single woman and hardened tourism professional? How much use do Tanya’s actions carry and how much caution à la “The guest is king!” determines Belinda’s reactions? The burgeoning relationship between the women is probably the only one that could last outside of the satirical universe designed here. It shows the actual core of “The White Lotus”, to which one unfortunately does not always penetrate due to all sorts of superficialities as a viewer.
Thus, large parts of the “Upstairs Downstairs” approach of the miniseries seem insufficiently elaborated. On the one hand, it is consistent, as it is shown, that the everyday life of the Hawaiian inhabitants in this environment plays no role with full intention. The consistently white and privileged guests are only too happy to be shielded, which also leaves them in their own sad emotion hamster wheel.
On the other hand, it is also a missed opportunity to integrate employees more consistently and, above all, more diversely into the plot. It is a very one-dimensional view of hotel staff that is presented to us, but at the same time takes itself too seriously to pass as satire in the same way. The fact that some employees of such a luxury resort have worked their way up in the hotel industry for years, perhaps even taking a chance to break out of their old, close lives and see the world – this possibility has no place in Mike White’s Lotus luxury. Suffering characterizes the lives of the employees throughout.
At the same time, promising characters and actors from the hotel staff are given away. The best example of this is the trainee Lani, who starts her first day slightly panicked, although she knows that she could give birth to her child at any moment. Jolene Purdy (“WandaVision”) fills this role with great brilliance – only to disappear from the scene after the first episode.
With their character, the makers do not draw from the full as much as with the holiday environment, in which the HBO format was produced under conditions during the Corona pandemic. Instead, the entire series is bathed in a fierce orange that hasn’t been seen or missed since the days of “CSI: Miami.” Why you drive to one of the prettiest places in the world for such a production and then immerse it in a monotonous color filter throughout, you probably don’t have to understand as a viewer. Thus, “The White Lotus” looks frighteningly old-fashioned right from the start.
Ultimately, this circumstance and a rather penetrating background music à la
Look! We are so lively, we know that we make satire!!! the pleasure of watching quite clearly. As much as it is fun to observe the dynamics of the dysfunctional guests and to remember people from your own family or your own environment, you will not be rewarded by the final episode for the necessary patience.
Amazingly, the suspense of “The White Lotus” nevertheless becomes denser with each episode, before it finally becomes quite unsatisfactoryd fizzles out. At the end of the sixth episode, it feels as if Mike White has told the same, individual punchlines about his super-rich study objects over and over again, variations of the same without an eventual climax. The openness and honesty of the performance, which is evident again and again, which is likely to either disturb or impress some viewers, is not enough to overlook it.
So “The White Lotus” unfortunately never becomes more than an accumulation of interesting individual parts. And so it is like a long-awaited holiday, which did not go quite as wonderfully as hoped. You don’t really regret the time invested, because some hours at the pool were quite nice. Again you would not book your room there.
This text is based on a review of the complete six-part miniseries “The White Lotus”.
My rating: 3/5
The six-part miniseries “The White Lotus” will be released by Sky via Sky Ticket and Sky Q from 12 July 2021 in parallel with the world premiere in the USA with weekly episodes in the original sound. The linear German premiere on Sky Atlantic – then also with dubbed version – will take place from 23 August.