Sometimes just one name is enough to call the faithful to a film. For HBO’s seductive series, The White Lotus, that name is Mike White. White is a writer and director, an actor and creator. His respectable resume includes Pitch Perfect 3, School of Rock, Nacho Libre, and Beatriz at Dinner.
His writing and directing touch — with over- and undertones of Upstairs/Downstairs — is all over The White Lotus. The rich arriving at a Hawai’ian resort called The White Louis include a family with Mother (Connie Britton), Father (Steve Zahn), son (Fred Hechinger) and daughter (Sydney Sweeney), plus her friend (Brittany O’Grady). Also arriving are a ditzy woman (Jennifer Coolidge) hauling her mother’s ashes, and a honeymoon couple comprising a jerk groom (Jake Lacy) and a doubting bride (Rachel Patton).
The staff welcomes them. The unctious Aussie hotel manager (Murray Bartlett) barely holds himself together. The black spa manager (Natasha Rothwell) dreams with The White Lotus in her rear view.
Mike White has acknowledged that “all these limited series start with a body,” so at an airport in the first minutes of The White Lotus, a man mentions to strangers that there’s a dead body on their plane. The rest of The White Lotus records the week before, a week of teenage girls being mean and a teenaged boy finding his mettle. The groom possesses not a whit of shame, nor does his controlling mommy (Molly Shannon), who joins the honeymooners (surprise!). The bride is not happy, not one bit. The managers flail in deep kimchee.
The White Lotus is about entitlement, or “enwhitelment,” as a comedian labeled it, with people of color at the beck of white people as described by Mike White. But it’s also about political correctness, parenting, and complicity, about secrets and stealing and sex. The White Lotus satisfactorily delivers on its opening promise. Just remember that “Aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye.”