August 23, 2021

Review: “The White Lotus” is an Intriguing Character Study

There’s a lot of weird TV out there, some fantastical and completely unrealistic, and others that feature strange and hard-to-believe characters, yet feel completely down-to-earth. HBO’s The White Lotus is a fantastic example of the latter.

Running only six episodes, The White Lotus is perhaps the most perplexing series I’ve had to review thus far. In the premiere, we meet a group of diverse guests who all happen to be staying at a Hawaiian resort called (you guessed it) the White Lotus in the same week. Throughout the season, we get to know these characters closely and intimately, though the brevity of the season leaves a lot to be desired. We’re seeing snippets of these characters’ lives, but I wish we got to dig a little deeper.

Some characters, though, I was fine with saying goodbye to by the time the finale rolled around. Every single one of them has their flaws, and those flaws are accentuated throughout the season by situations that simultaneously reveal both their best and worst selves. It’s truly a bizarre experience, but I can admit I never found myself truly liking any of these characters. The vast majority of them are rich, entitled white people who are spending their vacations re-examining their life choices (no, seriously, every single character does that at some point). Watching them go about their vacation is like watching a car crash from the side of the street.

The rich, entitled people include Shane (Jake Lacy) and Rachel Patton (Alexandra Daddario), allegedly happy newlyweds on their honeymoon — Shane especially is dissatisfied with the service the resort offers; Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge), a woman grieving her recently deceased mother; and the Mossbacher family, comprised of mother self-righteous Nicole (Connie Britton), ignorant father Mark (Steve Zahn), cynical daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney, playing very similar to her Euphoria character), socially awkward son Quinn (Fred Hechinger) and Paula (Brittany O’Grady), Paula’s friend from college. It’s certainly a packed ensemble, but it is very interesting watching some characters change and evolve over the course of the show, and some stay exactly the same. While everyone is engaging on screen, Daddario and Coolidge are the standouts, delivering career-best performances.

The undeniable MVP of the show is hotel manager Armond, played by Australian actor Murray Bartlett (when he first appeared on screen, I could’ve sworn he was Taika Waititi). He receives the most character development, and the show is at its best when following him. Armond has a lot in common with writer/director Mike White, as they are both middle-aged white gay men, and it was clear a lot of care was taken with crafting his character. We’ll just forget Armond’s gratuitously disgusting moment in the finale and call it a day.

Everything about The White Lotus, from a technical standpoint, is impeccable. The locations are beautiful and natural, the production design is immaculate, and the musical score is unique and well-crafted. While its writing and pacing sometimes leaves something to be desired, it makes up for its flaws with magnetic performances, an intriguing framing device and a (mostly) satisfying ending. Over the course of the first season, tensions rise and fall, and you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. [Grade: A-]

Director/Writer: Mike White
Starring: Murray Bartlett, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge
Rated: TV-MA (language, sex)
Available: HBO Max
Fun Fact: There will be more seasons of The White Lotus, but it will adopt an anthology approach, focusing on new characters and locations.

No comments:

Post a Comment