There is a scene at almost the very end of Hulu’s The Drop that serves as the perfect denouement for the film. Following a weekend of pseudo-character driven chaos set off by Lex (Anna Konkle) accidentally dropping the baby of the friends whose wedding cake she baked and whose wedding vows she’s agreed to write, Lex’s husband, Mani (Jermaine Fowler) returns from an evening of soul-searching overflowing with all the clarity and energy he has to this point in the story lacked. To this point, Mani tells Lex everything he has been unable to. He doesn’t like their life in Los Angeles. He wants to move back across the country to be near his family. And he’s not sure if he’s ready to start a family – but he knows he wants to try to be the most important person in Lex’s life if she’ll try to be the most important part of his.
It’s a beautiful little scene, written tautly and acted earnestly and full of those revelatory little moments – a look of realization, a word overemphasized – that turn happy confessions into the building blocks of a relationship. And it’s capped off with the second-best intentional joke in the movie. The problem is that this scene is also the first one in The Drop, where the characters act like recognizable human beings doing recognizably human things. The preceding 80-plus minutes are a sometimes curious, sometimes strange, mostly bewildering array of half-baked interactions and misdirected quirkiness: a found family this group is not.
The Drop begins with a simple enough premise. Lex and Mani go to Mexico for the wedding of their friends Mia (Aparna Nancherla) and Peggy (Jennifer Lafleur). Also present are Shauna (Robin Thede), Robbie (Utkarsh Ambudkar), and their son Levi (Elisha Henig), along with Lindsey (Jillian Bell) and Josh (Joshua Leonard, who also co-wrote the film alongside director Sarah Adina Smith). That’s nine people; the tenth is Mia and Peggy’s baby girl. As soon as everyone arrives, Peggy hands Lex the baby to hold for a moment. Lex gets distracted – ostensibly by a bee buzzing nearby, but possibly because she is having flashbacks to Bridgerton Season 2, which is how she drops the baby on the ground.
Everything that follows is supposed to stem from this incident. But everyone on this trip is so self-absorbed that they share almost no real interaction. Lex sits in shame and mortification, unconvinced by Peggy’s eventual assurance that everything is fine. Mani mostly sits beside Lex without offering words of comfort or asking his wife what he can do for her – unless Lex is ovulating, in which case two of them are having awkward, half-staff sex. Shauna is an actress in the most one-dimensional, Jane-Krakowski-on-30-Rock sense of the word. Robbie can be summed up by his belief that Steve Jobs visited him as an apparition and got the idea for voice recognition technology from their conversation. Levi streams anti-masturbation manifestos to other confused teenagers on Twitch. Lindsey and Josh exist. They’ve all come together to celebrate their friends’ union and lives together, but everybody remains wrapped up in themselves.
This brings us to another issue: curiously enough, the baby itself doesn’t appear much in The Drop. Once it gets dropped, it functions mostly as an apparition – or better yet, as an albatross hanging from Lex’s neck, making it impossible for any other guests to interact with her except in hushed tones. Before clicking Play, I had hoped that the titular drop might be the plot device through which the film’s characters are forced to reckon with their own immaturities, shortcomings, or unspoken expectations for life.
Instead, The Drop shunts off to one side its baby and the all-too-common horror that is caregivers dropping babies from time to time (we’re all very tired, and it’s impossible to always be “on”) in the same way that the film’s characters ignore the unpleasantness right in front of them in favor of their own pursuits. And I am also aware that babies do not, generally, make for the most compelling actors or characters or the most compelling direct influence on adult characters. It’s just that hoping that a movie in part about the decision to become a parent might demonstrate the visceral reality of what it means to exist with a baby on your hip or bjorned to your torso throughout your waking hours didn’t seem particularly unreasonable.
You might be saying, “But people are allowed to be selfish,” and indeed, that is true. But The Drop isn’t interested in interrogating the selfishness of would-be friends. It mines their solitariness for what are supposed to be laughs and, in so doing, leaves its main characters floundering. Lex is our erstwhile focus for about half the movie before she sort of gives up on moping and remembers she has a cake to finish and vows to write. After that, The Drop turns its attention to Mani, who (finally!) realizes he can’t be with this gaggle of fuckwits and wanders on down the beach. One extended “corazón” / “tiburón” mix-up later, he’s realized what’s important to him and returned to Lex for the scene I described at the top of this article. Then we get a poop joke (and maybe it was the joy of at long last getting a complete scene, but I actually enjoyed the joke), and we’re out.
It wouldn’t be fair to the movie to say that The Drop is nothing more than one good scene and a solid poop joke. I wonder, though, what this movie might have been if it began with that scene and that dropped deuce – at its true moments of creation – and went forward from there. You are never more likely to drop a child upon a concrete surface than when your heart is attached more than your hands could ever be.