The real star of HBO/HBO Max’s “The White Lotus” is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Location! Location! Location!
Though the brand’s name is never utilized in the show, the property’s luxurious ambience — from suites to pools, from dining facilities to an abundance of beachfront cabanas –is the perfect site that suits the unending and unapologetic vibes of the rich-and-conflicted clientele depicted in Mike White’s dramady of manners, or lack thereof, set in a Pacific resort.
The six-parter which debuted this past Sunday (July 11) — with airing of new episodes for the next few Sundays — provides an intimate and outrageous portrait of disgruntled travelers of privilege. Its satiric strokes and pokes at the disrespectful wealthy arrives at a time – real time – when Maui and much of the rest of Hawaii resorts are coping with too many visitors and not enough workhands, and this tongue-in-cheek treatment presents one-sided evidence that travelers are a pain in the derriere.
So the nuisance of overtourism rears an ugly head.
Exaggerated, yes, like the newlywed groom, complaining endlessly about not being in the honeymoon suite, while the bride tries to comfort him and explaining to the hotel’s front desk manner that the accommodations are fine, disputing her hubby.
Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), a woman traveling with the remains of her late mom, seeks Belinda (Nathasha Rothwell), a masseuse and spa manager, to ease her backaches, and she is the essence of someone who also is a pain in the butt, clinging to the massage whiz like opihi on rock, but a good tipper.
It’s fantasy, of course, and clearly represents the myriad of mishaps and the multitude of complainants within the community of a hotel. The tale could easily be set on a luxury liner or at summer camp, with similar implications. In reality, the “Lotus” cast and crew set up house and workplace, at the pricey Four Seasons last October through December, when most everyplace else had shut down due to the pandemic.
As guests arrive via boat (presumably from a nearby island, after a formal flight), hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) and newbie trainee Lani (Jolene Purdy) welcome the visitors each with different complaints.
The hotelier realizes that the privileged have a thirst for attention, so the squeaky wheels abound and catering to the requests is the key option.
There’s suspense, too; so “Lotus” will evolve into a peeling murder mystery in the weeks to come.
The good news, however sparse: There are three islanders in the cast, though one wonders if this is a credit worth boasting about. Loretta Ables Sayre shows up in one scene; if you blink, you’ll miss her. Kekoa Scott Kekumano will recur as hotel employee Kai. Brad Kalilimoku appears as a paddler, though in an uncredited role.
The bad news: In the opener, there were two somewhat startling scenes; Lani, the trainee, is hapai and her water breaks right next to the front desk.Traveler Mark Mossbacher (Steve Zahn), not only reveals he has a medical issue, testicular cancer, but he shows his junk – presumably not really his, but stand-in privates. It’s mockingly queasy stuff.
Perhaps the future episodes will render more startling scenes with less offensive results. The Four Seasons likely will remain the star, and perhaps welcome guests who may want to stay in the rooms of the “Lotus” cast. Without the baggage of whines.