A Review of Hulu's The Drop
Being a fan of projects associated with the Duplass brothers takes a lot of work. You never quite know just what kind of film you’re going to get, as the projects can range from heartfelt to absurd to downright uncomfortable. Where these films fall on the spectrum mostly has to do with the plot (which, duh, that’s the point of the plot), but in the case of this specific comedy troupe’s array of films, you’re really contending with how well you can handle the specific characters. A good majority of the time, this group of films tends to feature characters caught in a state of arrested development, children that have found themselves living in adult bodies who are constantly railing against the concept of growing up. You all know the type, and in fact, most of those in their 40s and 30s can closely identify with facets of these characters. But when you take these types of characters and mix them into the comedy genre, their worst attributes are magnified and the comedy tends to paint the characters as stupid, sex-obsessed, vain caricatures of real human beings, leaving the comedy to fall flat on its face.
In the case of 2022’s The Drop (directed by Sarah Adina Smith and co-written by Smith and longtime Duplass collaborator Joshua Leonard), the film is riddled with characters such as these…but where the film subverts expectations is with the two leads, Anna Konkle’s Lex and Jermaine Fowler’s Mani. Lex and Mani are a loving couple who are trying for a baby, and who are also about to embark on a trip to spend time with Lex’s college friend group to see two of their own married. Among this friend group are Peggy and Mia (wives to be, played by Jennifer Lafleur and Aparna Nancherla), Lindsey and Josh (Jillian Bell and the aforementioned Joshua Leonard), Shauna and Robbie with their teenage son Levi (Robin Thede, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Elisha Henig)...and Peggy and Mia’s daughter, Baby Ani. It’s a real who’s who of Duplass brothers’ regulars.
But of course, maybe the most important of these (non)regulars is Baby Ani herself, as it is she who will be dropped. Once all the friends are gathered together, in their grand reunion, Baby Ani gets passed off to Mani, who is then taken by Lex, who then, in a state of who-knows-how drops. The. Baby. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare for themselves, and pretty much everyone else’s worst nightmare if they’re holding someone else’s baby. Baby Ani ends up being just fine, and the film actually does take her possible injuries very seriously. She stays overnight at the doctor’s office while she’s monitored for concussion and cognitive reasons, and is released the next day with only a safety helmet. Baby Ani will never remember the traumatic event of being dropped, but the friend group certainly will.
The Drop masterfully takes this tense situation and uses it as a lens by which to examine the power dynamics between a couple who are contemplating expanding their family. For Lex, it makes her realize that maybe she is not only unprepared for immediate motherhood, but maybe motherhood in general. For Mani, it makes him question if Lex is the type of person who he wants to start a family with. This conflict, undeniably, is what makes the film work. There are many subplots that include Lindsey and Josh trying to get their friends to invest in their resort, the actress Shauna wondering if she can work “the drop” into her next project and whether or not Lex would be offended, Levi’s teenage burgeoning sexual appetite, and the general discussion of Mia’s possible Republican affiliations…but none of these subplots are remotely interesting, nor are they funny. But what they are successful in managing is creating the space for the tension between Lex and Mani to grow.
What The Drop subverts in Lex and Mani’s relationship are the general gender stereotypes regarding child rearing. Typically, in most comedies, it’s the male who doesn’t want to pursue starting a family, as it generally cramps their style. Not the case in The Drop. In fact, Mani makes it clear that he feels his life’s purpose is to be a dad. But that doesn’t mean that Lex is made out to be some “gross” or “raunchy” or “one-of-the-guys” type of lady. She’s just a woman who so happens to be placed in a situation where she begins to question if she’s ready to give up her autonomy to raise a child, or even if that’s something physiologically and psychologically her body can handle. This, of course, puts Mani and Lex at odds, and in true comedy fashion, they spend most of the film being incapable of communicating these very scary truths to each other. Can Mani trust Lex to be the mother he needs her to be, and can Lex give Mani what it is that he desires and deserves? These are honest and relatable questions all contemplative parents-to-be should be asking of themselves and each other, and hidden in the typical cringe-comedy of a Duplass production, The Drop answers them deftly and sincerely.
The main selling point of The Drop is that the central conflict is happening to two committed people. The film does a great job of dispelling the myth that dropping a baby is uncommon (in fact, my own mother fell asleep in a rocking chair while rocking my baby brother and, well, dropped him) and instead takes that traumatic event and places the responsibility for truth on the couple at hand. This isn’t your typical romantic comedy where people have to question whether or not they should get together in the first place; these are two people who are, truly, in it for the hypothetical long haul. If they choose to let this event change their minds about each other, their lives will be affected. There’s really nothing funny about the end results if they choose to turn away from each other. We can be proud of them for making an adult and responsible decision, but there won’t necessarily be joy to be found there.
Ever since Hulu’s pen15, I am on a track to watch absolutely anything in which Anna Konkle is involved, and the same can be said about most of this cast for other reasons. If you can get past the din of the silly subplots involving ludicrous proto-humans, I guarantee the heart of The Drop will be well worth your time. For all the parents out there who have dropped a child, I’m certain an entire group of people are truly feeling seen and comforted, and what is the point of comedy if not to comfort us in our shared experience and flawed humanity? The Drop may be pitched as a cringe-comedy, but it’s more akin to a therapy session. Choose your humans, and choose them wisely. The good will accept you at your best, the best will accept you at your worst.
Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.