The White Lotus season 1 **** 1/2
Comedy drama. With Jennifer Coolidge, Murray Bartlett and Connie Britton. Director: Mike White.
Set at the titular Hawaiian resort, this sharp social satire follows the exploits of various guests, including an eccentric, spoilt woman (Coolidge from Legally Blonde); a high-powered businesswoman (Britton from Friday Night Lights) and her navel-gazing husband (Steve Zahn); and employees such as the hotel manager (Bartlett) and spa manager (Natasha Rothwell).
With the wealthy holidaygoers’ emotional baggage tagging along for the ride, their carefree “holiday mode” soon begins to run thin and pressure builds as mismatched expectations play out.
Writer-director White, who wrote the screenplays for comedy gems such as School of Rock (2003) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017), has produced a superb piece that critiques race, class, gender and privilege by presenting these subjects from diverse viewpoints without being heavy-handed.
The script hints at Hawaii’s colonial past while the setting provides a stunning contrast of serene landscape against the excessive wealth of the visitors to the hotel. The bubble of privilege in which the guests exist takes centre stage, showing how harmful it is when it’s invisible to those who have it.
The exquisite soundtrack is an art piece and a perfect accompaniment to the series. It plays like a heady cocktail in peak summer, satisfying and soothing the tension that the (sometimes) uncomfortable story elicits.
With skilful directing and a fabulous script, character development is quick and seamless, and the cast deliver fantastic performances.
There’s no outright villain or hero but each story told is equally gripping and Bartlett’s portrayal of the passive-aggressive hotel manager is something else. This is one series that’s hard to stop watching.
– CAMILLA THOROGOOD
2021. 6 EPISODES. 18LSDN. AVAILABLE ON SHOWMAX.
Sweet Girl ** 1/2
Action. The death of his wife sends grieving widower Ray Cooper (Jason Momoa) on a roaring rampage of revenge with his teenage daughter, Rachel (Isabela Merced from Dora and the Lost City of Gold), in tow.
Ray’s wife (Good Omens’ Adria Arjona) succumbs to cancer after a pharmaceutical company pulls a cheap and effective medication from the market, and he isn’t going to rest until he makes those responsible suffer and die.
So far, so every revenge thriller ever. Momoa is quite effective at conveying Ray’s grief and helplessness, but Ray is written as little more than a cypher. He’s a family man, possibly a blue-collar worker, and he inexplicably has the fighting skills of a Dothraki warrior.
As revenge thrillers go, it’s not bad, but a pure WTF final-act revelation, which is neither foreshadowed nor even hinted at, is peak outrageousness.
The revelation turns out to be a wasted opportunity. Had it been made much earlier, it would’ve been a very different and quite possibly much better film.
– DENNIS CAVERNELIS
2021. 110 MIN. 13LV. AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX.
Fried Barry ****
Local horror comedy. This movie is as South African as boerewors and pap and it’s making waves overseas at film festivals and with critics.
It’s a cult movie for viewers with a very specific taste in films – those who liked Pink Flamingos (1972) and The Taint (2011) should enjoy it.
As the title suggests, drug addict Barry (Gary Green) is as high as Table Mountain.
After an alien takes control of his body, viewers follow him on a quest through Cape Town’s inner-city night life while he indulges in everything from drugs, sex and bloodlust to techno music and a trip to outer space.
Fried Barry is a surreal hybrid of directors’ David Lynch and Leon Schuster’s films via a music video from Die Antwoord. If this sounds like something you have to try and you have a strong stomach, you’ll probably get a kick out Barry’s bizarre adventures.
Green, a stuntman who usually plays small roles in international productions, deserves some kind of award for his memorable portrayal.
Regular visitors to The Labia in Cape Town will also be happy to know the late eccentric Sedick Tassiem aka Boeta Dickie – who gave himself a job at the iconic theatre – makes a cameo appearance.
Other familiar faces include Chanelle de Jager (Egoli), Sean Cameron Michael (The Mummy), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails), Deon Lotz (Trackers) and Colin Moss (Idols).
Based on his 2017 short film, this wildly imaginative film directed by Ryan Kruger is like a virus you’re not sure you want to get rid of.
– PIETER VAN ZYL
2020. 99 MIN. 18LNSV. AVAILABLE ON DSTV BOXOFFICE.
A: All ages D: Drugs H: Horror L: Language N: Nudity P: Prejudice PG: Parental guidance S: Sex V: Violence