Movie Review: The White Lotus Season 2

There was never meant to be a second season of The White Lotus. Mike White’s scathing satire of wealth and privilege was supposed to be a miniseries, but it became such a cultural phenomenon there just had to be more – and the story format was easy enough to adapt. So, now, welcome to The White Lotus, Sicily. The skies are just as blue, the water is just as sparkling, and the guests are just as insufferable. A new group of holiday-makers have checked in, and over a week, they will expose their soft, entitled underbellies until one of them – or the staff – is dead.

There’s the Di Grassos, three generations of men with dad Dom (Michael Imperioli), his father Bert (F. Murray Abraham) and son Albie (Adam DiMarco). The family are in Sicily to explore their ancestral roots, but it’s a men-only affair, with the Di Grasso  women opting out thanks to Dom’s
philandering ways. Dom wastes no time hooking up with Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Granno), two enterprising local sex workers who know how to hustle, and they also know how to seduce more than just one Di Grasso.

Also at the resort is the group of marrieds Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe), Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne (Meghann Fahy). Cameron and Ethan were college roommates but haven’t been super close since. When Cameron invites Ethan and Harper to join him and Daphne on holidays together, Ethan suspects an ulterior motive. The tensions between flashy fund manager Cameron and newly rich Ethan are obvious, a swirl of existing resentments, envy and judgment. The surly Harper, in particular, isn’t buying Cameron and Daphne’s “perfect couple” vibe.

The only carry-over from the first season is Jennifer Coolidge’s deeply clueless and deeply insecure Tanya, a billionaire heiress who is as unlucky in love as she is self-involved. Tanya married Greg (Jon Gries), the parks guy she met in Hawaii, but the marriage is far from ideal. She can’t shake off her ingrained neuroticism, which would be more sympathetic if she wasn’t so passive-aggressive to her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson).

That’s the line The White Lotus is constantly straddling. It presents these characters as repellent and wants us to laugh at them. But the only way that’s sustainable across a season is if they’re also relatably human in some way. Like, Tanya’s profound little-girl-lost-sadness – if you can’t feel something for her besides contempt, then the show doesn’t work at all. If you can’t see that Dom has inherited some of his attitudes towards women from his dad, then he’s irredeemable.

Of course, whether any of them are worthy of salvation is questionable. The White Lotus’ indictment of the wealthy is as obvious as its stablemate, Succession. Subtlety is not its forte. This second season is less acerbic and not as heightened as the first series. While there’s a hotel concierge (Valentina, played by Italian actor Sabrina Impacciatore), she’s nowhere near as compelling as Murray Bartlett’s Armond.

Ofcourse, her approach to sexual harassment and management leaves much to be desired. If there’s a central figure tying together the guests, it’s Lucia, the sex worker, a wily and clever woman who knows how to exploit every opportunity in a system that has privileged these bloated Richie riches. Maybe she’s the real hero? It again takes a few episodes to ramp up – the first two and a half episodes could be generously described as luxuriating on a holiday schedule, and it only really grabs you by the proverbial balls by episode four.

But at least it’s done away with its somewhat ham-fisted attempts at commentary about colonization – the Italian setting is less of a conduit than Hawaii was in the first season. This instalment is much more focused on just the characters than trying to “say something”. In some ways, that makes it a less frustrating experience than the first series. In others, it’s not as punchy.

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Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

Bolu

About Author / Boluwatife Adesina

Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

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