The White Lotus: Perhaps few things fascinate us as much as following the lives of very rich people. To some extent, they are like exotic animals: very few humans have the experience of knowing what it’s like to go through this world without having to worry about money. For this very reason, almost the entire population of the earth would love to spy on what the rich do when no one is looking.
The series released by HBO The White Lotus, considered by many critics to be this year’s big television news, takes in exactly this curiosity. Over the course of the six episodes, we followed the vacation of 8 subjects in a paradise resort in Hawaii. They are grouped into three groups: a couple traveling on their honeymoon; a slightly distraught millionaire who goes to Hawaii to take her mother’s ashes; a crazy family that doesn’t seem to see their problems.
Unexpectedly, The White Lotus begins with a mystery: we see Shane (Jake Lacy), her honeymoon husband, waiting for the flight to return to the United States. He looks in the window and from there he sees a coffin being carried into the plane. The initial motto is clear: someone died at White Lotus. The rest of the episodes, therefore, will be narrated in flashback, leaving in the air the question of whose body it is.
The narrative trick is original, as this is not a thriller series. It’s hard to categorize it: although it’s a comedy, the episodes have a melancholy tone about those characters, even though the look of creator and director Mike White (School of Rock screenwriter) is always acidic. But the richness of The White Lotus text lies in the fact that the series’ commentary on class issues (the basis of the wealthy’s often silent exploration of those who serve them) is never blasted – what would be the most obvious way.
The White Lotus begins with the arrival of tourists in Hawaii. They are greeted by resort staff, coordinated by manager Armond (Murray Bartlett), the series’ central character. He explains to new employees the importance of this reception ritual – they wave to visitors with frozen smiles that hide their own lives. At the hotel, they are not people, but plays in a theater that aims to provide paying customers the best possible experience. In other words: it means that employees must be invisible and only serve when asked. Guests, on the other hand, make it clear from the start what they are.
And the characters will, throughout the six episodes, be denuded not just as subjects, but as “symptoms” of some kind of social distortion represented by the wealthy classes. Lonely Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge, in the best role of her career) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Clearly depressed, she looks for some kind of help to get out of her existential hole. She’ll find this in a massage provided at the hotel’s spa by Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), who, with generic advice, offers what Tanya believes she’s looking for.