The Troubles of the Rich: The White Lotus

The White Lotus for writer and director Mike White is a global brand of luxury resorts. In the first season the location was in Hawaii, which he knows very well because he lives there; in the second season, which debuted on HBO (Sky in Italy) in October 2021, we moved to Sicily, to Taormina. And the third season? There will be, maybe we will be in Asia, as White anticipated: «The first season highlighted the money, the second the sex. I think the third could offer a satirical and humorous look at death, Eastern religion and spirituality. It seems to me that it could be material for a rich tapestry to show off in a new hotel White lotus». Are we going to Thailand?

The manager’s downfall

White is over fifty, has a solid Hollywood career as a TV series writer, won ten Emmy Awards with the first season, and his favorite actress Jennifer Coolidge (his Tanya is the only character who has had a central role in the two seasons) has recently won a Golden Globe for best supporting actress. In interviews (to the “Guardian”, to the “New Yorker”…) he declares himself gay and says he identifies with the gay characters who are central to the first two White lotus: the manager of the five-star Hawaiian resort is hilarious, poised between grotesque comedy and thriller; he has an erectile moustache, he is totally mellifluous and submissive with almost all his wealthy clients, tyrannical with the army of indigenous slave-employees, but at a certain point he stubbornly in conflict with the unbearable of season 1 (there is another in season 2); the brashly millionaire thirty-year-old with his exasperated little wife (Alexandra Daddario) gets stuck on a reservation of the suite of excellence, and between the two a finally mortal challenge is triggered as to who has to win; the manager starts a slow collapse made of provocations, he no longer has any shame in getting caught nailed in front of his employee-lover Adonis, stoned on coke…

Carnaio of couples

In Taormina, two young American couples intertwine, connected by the friendship of the two males born in college and now endured with increasing unease by the enriched nerd; the two couples, one blatantly American and a bit vulgar (until she reveals herself to be cynical, fatalistic, and freely immoral among a mass of respectable hypocrites), all “my love”, “you’re wonderful”, “honey, I’ll wait for you in camera”, the other vaguely intellectual, with the nerd’s wife who is a young lawyer (Aubrey Plaza) initially stunned and scandalized by the other two, finally fed up with her husband’s dependence on the other and lost in his vindictive sexual jealousy.

Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge).

This quartet is masterfully written by White: remember carnagethe theatrical comedy by Yasmina Reza that Roman Polanski brought to the cinema: there a trivial accident between children at school gives rise to cruelty and hatred, here a stupid, “very funny” luxurious holiday crumbles all the pleasure-loving facades, the apparently OK couples, and makes the poor characters triumph in the only possible estimate, who work with talent and transparency (the holistic masseuse of the first season, the very young Sicilians who struggle to extract money as escorts from the slobbering middle-aged American baboons: very good Beatrice Grannò and Simona Tabasco ).

Poor Tanya!

The tune composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer for the initials of the first season, a sort of vibrating and estranged ukulele, in the second season distorts itself and first becomes a sinister lyric song and then a disco rhythm: repeatedly White frames the waves of the Pacific Ocean before and then of the Mediterranean Sea, a pagan, powerful, hypnotic presence that inexorably reveals the characters to their squalor. In Taormina, White’s roundups are repeatedly bewitched by the ceramics that swarm in the resort, the “Moorish heads” covered with citrus fruits or splendid headdresses. That little tune stays in your head, it vibrates and vibrates and it instills in you the sense of insanity that White wants to put off: is this, being rich? Moving from an ordinary fiction to an extraordinary fiction (the “holidays”) until the inescapable, Death makes you realize that the game is over?

Tanya dies at the end of the second season, with a grotesque fall from the seal off the yacht of the congregation of gay mafia who – she understands too late – want to kill her to inherit his fortune, given that one of them, the one who got married Tanya at the end of the first season is one of them. He married her for money! He is gay too! Everyone is circling it between crumbling patrician villas, Sicilian wines and gargantuan meals of fish and shellfish. Everything is a macabre carousel that dazes her, the oversized and sexy doll who is horrified by her own age! Jennifer Coolidge in White lotus he really has the apotheosis of his modest career. But Tanya redeems herself shortly before she dies, takes a gun and kills her mafia stallion, the elegant Englishman who deceived her, all those who come within range on the yacht. And then she drowns. Poor Tanya! So rich! So naive!

The others manage to go home, revealed to themselves. The young characters remain trapped in their destinies, but are still aware. Some of their petals are still white. But the sumptuous lotus flower – this is the reason for the brand chosen by Mike White – has its roots in the mud, under the surface of appearances, and the unexpected muddy the waters.

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