The Drop premieres exclusively Jan. 13 on Hulu.
The Drop starts off with a bang, literally. It gives us the entertaining basics about young married couple Lex (Anna Konkle) and Mani (Jermaine Fowler), transplants in Los Angeles who are enthusiastically trying to make a baby. But a destination wedding to Mexico with Lex’s old college friends ends up testing their whole relationship once an accident turns their stay into a trip from hell. The smart and witty premise that launches the main conflict ends up getting buried by an ensemble of absurdist friends who don’t really bolster the main story, as much as steal focus from it making for a fractured and uneven exploration of love and potential parenthood.
Opening in Los Angeles, Lex and Mani own an ironically named bakery, Carbs, and are actively charting her cycle to get pregnant. Mani misses his family in Brooklyn but he is supportive of his wife’s dreams, as she is about his excitement about being a dad. But that’s also challenged when they land in Mexico and as Lex holds her friend’s baby girl, promptly drops her. Reader, I gasped and it’s a brilliant inciting incident to make Lex, Mani, and everyone else in the wedding party question everything and judge, judge, judge.
In fact, the opening 20 minutes, as directed and co-written by Sarah Adina Smith, is the strongest portion of the film. There’s a great introduction of the happy couple so you’re rooting for them, the wedding guests crammed together in first class are full of bizarre quirks that will undoubtedly get under the skin of Lex and Mani, and then that drop moment hits like a hammer, landing as both horrific and blackly comedic. Unfortunately, everything that comes after doesn’t achieve that level of greatness going forward.
The child who takes the hit is the baby of the two women getting married, Peggy (Jennifer Lafleur) and the very intense and clingy Mia (Aparna Nancherla), who have the potential to be interesting sounding boards and examples of diametrically opposed parenting styles for Mani and Lex to observe, but they don’t get to function that way in the script. Peggy is relegated to being the sane one while Mia does weird things like ask her former lover, Lex, to write their vows for the wedding ceremony. Like who would do that?
And it doesn’t get much better with the rest of the guests, which includes narcissistic Hollywood TV couple, actress Shauna (Robin Thede), her producer husband, Gabe (Utkarsh Ambudkar), and their essentially ignored adopted teen, Levi (Elisha Henig). And then there’s Lyndsey (Jillian Bell) and Josh (Joshua Leonard), who are the “natural hotel” owners and longtime friends of the group who are hosting the wedding. Their eccentricities just amp up and up throughout the whole film as all of them overshare their various sexual histories, hangups, and bizarre worldviews with a poor undeserving Mani. They’re wretched and no help as what Lex has done, and how she reacts in the aftermath, rattles him to the core about whether parenting is the right path for them. For Mani, The Drop is a horror film. For Lex and the audience, it’s a farce level comedy about boorish people stuck together in a hotel that hits climactic bizarreness during the wedding eve reception dinner.
The unfortunate problem with The Drop is that there’s a really great movie in here that could have bloomed in the wake of the accident if executed with dark wit and more of a focus on what this event does to Lex and Mani. But that gets obscured by the side stories that are far less interesting but eat up way too much real estate in the script. What unfolds plays out more like a collecting of vignettes on beaches, boats and in drum circles. As it devolves, none of it makes Lex very likable (baby choices entirely aside), and shifts the audience to side with Mani. And then it tries to remedy their major issues in a very tidy ending that doesn’t feel earned. All of which is too bad because Konkle and Fowler are very good together and if their implosion was treated with more realism with just some tempering of the unruly supporting ensemble, a much better outcome would have been had. And that’s not to say the ensemble characters don’t land some funny moments, or wicked line readings. But they are ultimately a lot across the board, almost caricatures instead of people. If they could have been toned down about 40%, it would have given the premise of the film a much better foothold.