THE WHITE LOTUS – Review by Susan Granger

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As the plot of Mike White’s new HBO series unfolds, it’s as if Fantasy Island merged with The Love Boat.

In the opening shot, a casket is being loaded onto a plane. It’s a mysteriously ominous beginning that soon shifts to a tropical island where smiling Armond (Murray Bartlett), the smarmy resort manager, and his newly hired assistant Lani (Jolene Purdy) prepare to welcome new guests as they arrive at the luxurious White Lotus Hotel.

Predictably, there are newlyweds: enormously wealthy, entitled Shane (Jake Lacy) and his bride Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), who were promised the Pineapple Suite but now have to settle for a second-best but still-magnificent, ocean-front accommodation.

Unflappable Nicole Mossbacher (Connie Britton) is a famous tech/lifestyle guru, accompanied by her nervous husband Mark (Steve Zahn), who fears he has testicular cancer; her sardonic college sophomore daughter, Olivia (Sydney Sweeney); Olivia’s dug-toting pal Paula (Brittany O’Grady); and tech-obsessed teenage Quinn (Fred Hechinger), whom Olivia bullies mercilessly.

Last but certainly not least is needy, self-centered Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge), who plans to scatter her mother’s ashes at sea. Complaining of an aching back, Tanya immediately befriends Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), the spa manager, ignoring the guest/staff boundary by inviting Belinda to join her for dinner and then promising to provide financial backing for Belinda’s own wellness center.

Petty privilege and quirky dysfunction prevail but, unfortunately, the stereotypically splashy characterizations are shallow and superficial. Which is surprising since Mike White’s Enlightened – also on HBO – was quite the opposite. Watching White skewer the guests’ toxic behavior is a mixed-bag of economic and gender inequality.

“Nobody cedes their privilege,” Mark astutely observes. “It goes against human nature. We’re all just trying to win the game of life.”

Filmed at the Hawaii’s Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, the production cast and crew were sequestered during the pandemic – and, presumably, duly pampered.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The White Lotus is a snarky, satirical 6, streaming on Sunday nights in six hour-long episodes on HBO/HBO Max.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.