The Drop, Hulu’s new movie from Sarah Adina Smith, follows a very familiar comedy premise: A group of longtime friends come together for a trip, and something happens to throw off the equilibrium, intragroup dynamics becoming increasingly chaotic to comedic effect. That something that happens in The Drop though is what makes it stand out as something more original. In The Drop, all hell breaks loose when someone quite literally drops a human baby. That strange premise makes for very good relationship drama.
Don’t worry: The baby is fine! But it’s this very human, very taboo mistake that rattles the group, turning an intimate lesbian destination wedding into a fraught affair, testing existing marriages and friendships and leading people to reevaluate what it is they want. It’s a comedy of errors, meets relationship comedy, meets friend group comedy. And for the most part, it performs quite well on each of those planes.
Pen15‘s Anna Konkle stars as the baby dropper herself, Lex, who is married to Mani (Jermaine Fowler) and trying to have a baby with him. Robin Theade (A Black Lady Sketch Show) stars as Shauna, a hilariously vapid network television actress married to new agey Robbie (Never Have I Ever‘s Utkarsh Ambudkar). They have an adopted teen son named Levi (Elisha Henig), who has a robust online following of male supremacists who believe in never masturbating. Joshua Leonard and Jillian Bell (who I loved in the very underrated Idiotsitter) play married couple Josh and Lindsey, two members of the friend group who moved to Mexico to open an oceanside resort, where everyone gathers for the wedding.
In addition to the three married couples, there’s the couple getting married: Mia (Aparna Nancherla) and Peggy (Jennifer Lafleur). The dropped baby is their daughter. Upon arriving in Mexico, Peggy asks Lex to hold the baby, and Lex drops her, throwing a wrench in the entire weekend and in everyone’s relationships. Much of the movie focuses on Lex and Mani and the way the baby drop immediately and insidiously unearths deep, dormant problems in their marriage. They, too, are trying to conceive, and Mani is desperate to become a dad. Lex rather obviously lies to him about why she dropped the baby, making up a tale about a bee stinging her. She’s insecure about what the incident says about her, and he’s quick to read too much into it, too. This movie contains some of the most realistic relationship fight scenes I’ve ever seen in film, regardless of genre. These scenes are funny in their discomfort, but they’re also just so real, Konkle and Fowler both giving chewy comedic performances.
But there’s something just slightly off — or missing — from The Drop that ultimately holds it back. And I think it comes down to its flattened depiction of its queer couple Mia and Peggy. Sure, they aren’t the focus of the movie, and the other married couples don’t get as robust of arcs as Lex and Mani do. But the inciting action of the film does hinge on their baby being dropped, which also accelerates existing tension in their marriage. There’s a runner throughout the movie that Mia is increasingly alarmist. Early on, her friends whisper on the plane about the fact that she owns a gun now and even wonder if she possibly voted for Trump. Mia admits to watching a lot of true crime when pregnant with her daughter, and parenting only seems to have exacerbated her paranoias about imagined threats to her home and family. In the hospital while their daughter is being checked, Mia tells Peggy she wants to kill Lex for dropping her. Peggy gently says she’s concerned about the fact that she saw Joe Rogan’s podcast in their shared Spotify account. Later, Mia expresses support for the death penalty. This all culminates in a weak punchline: Mia confesses during the movie’s climax that she is a libertarian.
I’ll come back to that. Some queer viewers might enjoy the casual way Peggy and Mia’s family is presented. They have a baby together, and it’s no big deal. There is no long explanation for how this baby came to be; no invasive questions are asked about donors. They’re presented as two queer women who are getting married and who are having a baby together — no need to treat them any differently than any of the other couples in the movie.
But…are we really there yet? Does authentic queer representation really mean writing queer characters whose queerness is so chill to the point where it doesn’t matter at all? I realize I could be bringing some of my own baggage to this, but it’s still hard for queer couples to start families, and it’s even harder for unmarried ones. And every time reproduction rights are rolled back, queer people trying to get pregnant are significantly impacted. I am glad that the the movie does not necessarily fixate on how Mia and Peggy have a baby; it’s good to normalize it. But it seems absurd to me that there would be no textual connection between Mia’s parenting anxieties and her queerness. There’s so much pressure on queer parents to be the best, to never do anything wrong because then it makes it too easy for homophobic people to blame it on their queerness, to say this would never happy to that baby if she had a father to protect her. I don’t have an issue with The Drop telling a story about postpartum paranoia; it’s a very real thing for a lot of parents! I even don’t necessarily mind that Mia’s paranoia has gotten so bad that it has changed her political beliefs. Again, that’s real.
What doesn’t feel real to me is the lack of a queer lens on any of this. Peggy and Mia don’t seem to think about what it means to be two moms raising a child together at all — or, more accurately, don’t seem to think at all about how the rest of the world might view them. I do think there are very wealthy, white, cis gay people who live their lives almost never thinking of their sexuality anywhere other than in the bedroom. And Peggy and Mia seem to at least be somewhat wealthy (the whole friend group is), but Mia is not white, and I still just don’t entirely buy that they’d in enough of a privilege bubble to not think about these things, to not feel that pressure queer parents feel, that fear when things do go wrong.
I know this is a comedy, but I also know it’s a comedy that proves it can go deep on serious relationship tensions and marital conflicts. We see it done so well with Lex and Mani. Its storytelling about intimacy and marriage is compelling throughout. And I’m not saying I want Peggy and Mia’s arc to be any more dour or intense than the rest of the couples in the movie. I would have been satisfied if we’d even just gotten one line, one moment of Mia or Peggy saying it’s different for us when reacting to Lex’s mistake. Instead, Mia’s paranoias are just played for laughs and nothing more. It makes for a movie that, despite set entirely at a lesbian wedding, doesn’t feel especially queer.
The queerest part of the movie is actually the gradual and casual reveal that Lex has dated just about everyone in the friend group. Lex is a sleeper chaotic bisexual! I love it! Mia says she was her first real love, which is why she also asks her to write the vows for her and Peggy. Lex also dated Robbie, Josh, and Lindsey. At various points, they all talk about this shared history, and it’s both hilarious and familiar to anyone with a particularly messy friend group.
I do like The Drop. There are surprising textures to its humor and to its relationship writing. Mani’s arc is especially compelling. I’m just increasingly skeptical of queer characters whose queerness could be removed with very little impact on the story. I know people love to praise LGBTQ characters who are not defined by their queerness, but moving too far in the other direction feels like assimilation, and I’m wary of that. I indeed want gay characters whose queerness is not just about who they sleep with, but that’s exactly why I think there’s such a missed opportunity here to touch briefly on the nuances of queer parenting.