The Drop, 2023.
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith.
Starring Anna Konkle, Jermaine Fowler, Aparna Nancherla, Jillian Bell, Joshua Leonard, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Elisha Henig, Jennifer Lafleur, Monnae Michaell, Bryan Ross, Susan Sullivan, and Robin Thede.
A seemingly happy married couple confronts a test of their marriage when one of them drops a baby while at a destination wedding at a tropical island.
The jumping-off point for the conflict and comedy in The Drop comes from a shocking accident that could have derailed co-writer/director Sarah Adina Smith’s (penning the script alongside one of the supporting cast members, Joshua Leonard) entire movie if not handled tastefully.
Central couple Mani and Lex (Jermaine Fowler and Anna Konkle) struggle to conceive a child but find themselves in Mexico for the wedding of one of the latter’s friends. Outside the airport, the baby of soon-to-be newlyweds Mia and Peggy (Aparna Nancherla and Jennifer Lafleur) makes its way into the arms of the entire group, eventually coming to Lex. Startled and stung by a bee (according to her), Lex drops the baby on her head.
Most importantly, the baby is okay, given a pink helmet to wear while the minor damage heals and to avoid further injury. Naturally, Lex is still rattled, considering she and her husband are planning to be parents, but her desire for a family comes into question. Anyone dropping a baby would most likely second-guess whether they are meant to be a parent, so there is something organic about the cringe humor that emerges from the situation, containing affectingly dramatic weight.
Then there is the rest of the ensemble, an assortment of self-absorbed and often unlikable oddballs that will have one wondering if any of them also got dropped on the head as a baby. Unsurprisingly, baby-dropping turns up in conversation multiple times to winning comic effect, especially when Mani and Lex digitally converse with their parents (Mani’s mom hilariously assures him that he was not dropped on his head as a baby and that it’s a white people thing).
Speaking of Mani’s family, there are other growing rifts in his relationship with Lex as due to moving to Los Angeles to live a married life, he doesn’t see them very much, which is visibly beginning to take its toll on him and them (they demand he not miss another get-together function). And after bearing witness to his wife making a horrendous impression as a potential parent, there’s a bit of trouble in the bedroom.
The comedic aspects are primarily successful because it’s not playing any of these antics and dynamics for broad slapstick humor, which would have been a disaster for the inciting incident. Among the friends are a family of actors, including their slimy red-pilled teenage son and a pair of hippies. They all have personal relationship issues to sort out, which is also presented funnily enough while endearing us to their unlikable qualities. Still, they aren’t nearly as compelling as Mani and Lex and occasionally feel written too silly.
The Drop is not a laugh riot but something to squirm through while watching every awkward encounter and exchange. Those interactions also have something to say about these characters and what they need to be happy (boasted by terrific performances from Jermaine Fowler and Anna Konkle, who are locked into finding human emotion within the strangeness of the unfolding vacation’s events).
Admittedly, it does lose steam and sometimes lacks energy and momentum, but it’s also a fair trade-off since the story and characters are handled delicately. It’s an ambitious dark comedy where that tricky balancing act isn’t fumbled.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com