The White Lotus. Currently the greatest show on all of television, across any of the formats and platforms.
The White Lotus is an American TV comedy-drama, a satire, a dark night of the soul that just happens to have a bottomless mojito and very comforting neck massage attached to it. It’s an HBO show that is screening through Neon in New Zealand.
Set in Hawaii – and filmed on location in Maui – The White Lotus is a (fictitious) luxury resort and rich white Americans are there. The strange tension and awkward dialogue palpable from the opening scenes. And from there it is ratcheted up. Almost continuously.
Created, directed, and written by Mike White (School of Rock, Nacho Libre, The Good Girl, Orange County) it is treacly black comedy with savage scenarios for loathsome characters. But most of these characters don’t know they’re awful – even though we can see that as soon as they come into frame.
It’s also an incredible ensemble. Filled with hard workers who have never been better – Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn, Murray Bartlett – and newer blood too. Some of the younger players here are absolutely amazing. Sydney Sweeney as a bright but bored college kid, into ugly judging and not even proud of her own sardonic swipes, just brutally aware of them of course. Alexandra Daddario as a honey-eyed honeymooner only just coming to terms with the trade-off for marrying into money, she has partnered with a vile jerk, basically the sports-jock, college-frat version of Patrick Bateman. He’s played brilliantly by Jake Lacy – who arrived to try injecting some energy into the final season of The Office. And he has some other decent credits.
Utterly awful characters. Intriguing though. Captivating.
And another key component is the music – which feels like the perfect collaboration between Danny Elfman and John Lurie but is the work of Chillean composer, Cristobal Tapia de Veer.
The White Lotus is many things – including being a reminder that travel is over. That travel is a morally reprehensible luxury. That tourism is a ruse.
But on top of that we have this collection of egos and privilege. In this resort. We have addictions and trauma and entitlement and compensation. Episode by episode – or day by day in the show’s plot – the emotional architecture crumbles.
If I had to pick one aspect though – it’s beautifully shot, perfectly cast and set, it hums along nicely etc – it is the dialogue. Mike White is an absolute master. Study this for the dialogue. Watch and cringe and laugh and love. It’s like Neil LaBute in overdrive.
It is my great pleasure to watch something this good.