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In the intoxication of wealth in Hawaii

“The White Lotus” about wealthy US vacationers in a luxury resort is a masterful satire about privilege and sophistication. See it on Sky.

Smile generically. You should smile as generically as possible, the hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) tells his new employee as they stand on the beach waving, in anticipation of the new VIP guests, whose ferry is about to dock. Just don’t stand out with personal individuality, rather put on a vague, friendly mask. These people like it this way: being cared for and pampered without having to think about who is actually caring for and pampering them.

There are certainly not too few series about rich people (and the character effects that wealth apparently can bring with it), but hardly any treats privilege and sophistication as sharply, so ingeniously, as funny as the six-part satire “The White Lotus” by Mike White (who has so far mainly appeared as a screenwriter, for example for “School of Rock”). The people whose vacation in the eponymous Hawaiian luxury resort is described here over six episodes are not at all from the extreme end of the prosperity scale. What they have in common is their conviction that everything is theirs. And that they define themselves through money in every aspect of their life. You can buy everything: relaxation, comfort, affection, respect.

There is, for example, the family of a tech entrepreneur who has been compensated by her husband after an affair with extremely expensive jewelry – but whose children have to sleep on the couch in the shared suite. The fact that the daughter Olivia (convincingly arrogant: Sydney Sweeney) alternately blasphemes about her surroundings or teaches it about imperialism and cultural appropriation is acknowledged by the parents with patient roll eyes, as well as the outbursts of their adolescent son, who even takes his tablet into the pool. Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge as a tearful, trumpesque diva), who by her own definition is “very much in need of love and deeply insecure”, is completely swollen from too many cosmetic surgeries Inviting spa manager (Natasha Rothwell) to dinner as a thank you for her massage.

“Help” the locals

Most strikingly drawn as a pampered giant baby is the newly married Shane (Jake Lacy), who did not get exactly the room his mother paid for his honeymoon with Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), who was rudely slumped into the upper class, and therefore got one Campaign against Armond leads. He hides his own secrets behind his courteous grin and his well-groomed mustache. This creates a sophisticated network of actions that not only includes the wealthy vacationers, but also the staff – and those who stand in between, like Olivia’s friend Paula, the only non-white among the guests, disgusted by the exotic ambience and the history of land grabbing of the hotel, which Hawaiian employees want to “help” in a rather problematic way.

A lot comes together here: class differences and wokeness, men confused in their masculinity ideals and “trophy wives”, reflections on “whiteness” and wildly colorful room decorations, moments of tension (that there will be a corpse in the end will be revealed at the beginning) and always quiet flickering premonition that the upheavals that are looming may never happen. “The White Lotus” does not even tell some stories to the end – which is quite consistent: it is usually the perspective of the wealthy that ultimately prevails. The others slowly disappear from the picture.

The trick that the series succeeds in: it targets the protagonists’ lack of traction without showing them off as glaring unsympathizers. Rather, it shows them – with the help of the outstanding acting ensemble – in all their, often tragic humanity. The remarkable camera work does the rest, bans states of intoxication (of which there are some here) in dazzling pictures, sneaks over wallpaper and slips under the waves in front of the obscenely swanky resort, finds brilliant perspectives for the sometimes lonely, sometimes swaying next to the lane, but figures always convinced of their own peculiarity: a beguiling, wonderfully grotesque masterpiece.

“The White Lotus”: Six episodes to be seen on Sky.


(“Die Presse”, print edition, 08/24/2021)

Arjun Sethi
Passionate guitarist, gamer and writer. Lives for the perfect review, and scrapes texts until they are razor-sharp.


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