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Film and TV

The White Lotus

Like many recent HBO dramas, this “near-note-perfect tragicomedy” begins with a mysterious death, says Naomi Fry in The New Yorker. But who’s copped it? Suddenly we are among a gaggle of shameless rich American tourists a week earlier (the six-episode series is named after the fictional Hawaiian resort they stay in), including a Sheryl Sandberg-like tech CFO and her obnoxious family, and a real-estate scion on honeymoon with his new wife. The resort’s decidedly less wealthy, more ethnically diverse staff wait to greet the guests. Think Big Little Lies meets Succession, with a dash of reality TV. A slew of rivalries. A foreboding, tribal-drum-heavy score. “After duking it out for a week on an island, who will come out alive?”

I wondered if I really needed six hours with “more super-rich a-holes”, says Boyd Hilton in Empire. But The White Lotus is “a subversive triumph”. Its selfish characters have their bubble of privilege, but the withering tone and fluid visual style make this “magnificently messy”: a close-up of a cock and balls here, a drug-fuelled sex session there. And every single cast member is exceptional. The “MVP” is Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), a lonely alcoholic who carries her dead mother’s ashes in an ornate gilt box. Coolidge imbues Tanya with startling “raw vulnerability”. And hats off to director Mike White (School of Rock, Freaks & Geeks), who has a field day spinning a murder-mystery into “a much edgier, more gleefully transgressive” package. “Luxury holidays will never be the same again.”

The White Lotus is on Sky Atlantic and Now TV. Watch the trailer here.

Free Guy

Jodie Comer and Ryan Reynolds in Free Guy

Free Guy’s popcorn movie escapism is “exactly the kind of film we could all use right now”, says the BBC’s Ali Plumb. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a “walking smiley face” in a Grand Theft Auto-like game, who is cheerfully robbed, beaten and torched with players’ flamethrowers every hour of his The Truman Show existence. As an homage to pop culture, “everything is awesome”. Awakened to his own artificial hellscape, Guy tries to break out into the real world. It would “be called hokum by my dad”, but it’s endearing – a special-effects-filled summer blockbuster.

The whole thing “scrambles Reynolds’s brand with a glee bordering on mania”, says Charlotte O’Sullivan in the Evening Standard. It’s the best movie he’s ever done. It also makes sublime use of Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, Joe Keery from Stranger Things, Channing Tatum and Chris Evans. The film’s fabulous baddie is corporate hipster Antwan (Taika Waititi). And you don’t need to be a gaming expert to get the gags. The whole point about Guy is that he doesn’t know he’s in a video game. When savvy experts start talking about hacking and “skins”, he looks dazed and says: “I got, like, 5% of that.” Snap. He’s the way in for us ignoramuses. This tour de force is very much a group effort. “But what a Guy.”

Free Guy is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer here.