Maybe Scott Morrison knew Australians wouldn’t be going on a Hawaiian resort holiday for many years when he dragged his feet coming home at the start of 2020.
It wasn’t a failure of leadership, it was clairvoyance!
Anyway, now we’re locked within our borders, dreams of pina colados while lei-ed up are merely a distant dream from a different time.
So maybe the next best thing is lavish Foxtel* drama The White Lotus – but only if you don’t mind a bout of indigestion to go with that breakfast buffet.
A social satire created by Mike White (School of Rock, Enlightened), The White Lotus is a blistering take on the gaping chasm between those who can afford to stay at an expensive resort and those who can only afford to work there.
But its representation of entitled rich white people might be too effective, because many of the monstrous characters are so unpleasant, sometimes the reaction is to turn it off out of anxiety, rather just laugh at them.
Take for example, honeymooner Shane Patton (played against type by usual nice guy Jake Lacy), the scion of a wealthy family. How his family has money or how much they have aren’t important, because he oozes privilege.
He has the air of someone who has never been refused – to him rejection is as alien as seeing a Bengal tiger act as a David Jones greeter. So, when he realises his opulent suite isn’t the room he booked, he’s incensed.
Never mind the room is larger than many people’s homes or that it has ocean views. What it’s not is the best room in the hotel – and the second-best room in the hotel will not stand. Across six episodes, Shane and the hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) will end up in a escalating, passive-aggressive tete-a-tete over something so trivial.
Then there’s Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya, a single traveller on a quest to spread her mother’s ashes who’s as neurotic as she is needy. She latches onto the spa’s manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) with effusive praise of her talent and the dangled promise of investing in it.
And then there are the Mossbachers, with high achiever mum Nicole (Connie Britton), dad Mark (Steve Zahn), device-obsessed son Quinn (Fred Hechinger) and college-aged daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney). Olivia has invited along her friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady).
The interactions over this week at the resort are incredibly frustrating to watch, which is why The White Lotus’ greatest strength – that adroit ability to really hit home the utter obscenity of unthinking wealth – is also its weakness.
Because it’s not revelatory or new.
If any viewer genuinely learns something or feels challenged to reflection by The White Lotus’ commentary about the haves-and-have-nots, about the colonisation of native lands (in this case, a Hawaiian island which was practically stolen from its Indigenous population who now serve the guests for a crappy wage), or the smugness of progressive white allies, then they haven’t been paying attention.
That kind of class commentary has been bread and butter of storytelling for years now and without a more cohesive story giving it narrative momentum, it often becomes a series of vignettes involving awful, irredeemable people who never make the right choice – and whether that’s entertaining or even stomachable really depends on your mileage.
The series is inconsistent and it takes a couple of episodes to settle in and doesn’t really hit its full stride until midway through the six-episode season. The back half of the show is much stronger than the early wobbly episodes if you make it past.
But when it does work, The White Lotus can be wickedly absurd with a cracker pace that oscillates between biting comedy and pure farce, underpinned by the tragedy of exploitation and indifference.
The White Lotus is on Fox Showcase and Foxtel Now with new episodes available on Mondays at 11am
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*Foxtel is majority owned by News Corp, publisher of news.com.au
Originally published as Blistering new TV show induces anxiety