An American Pickle, starring Seth Rogen in dual roles, is the latest planned theatrical release to bypass theaters and go straight to streaming.
It would have been really interesting to see how this sort of film plays with an audience. However, we’ll never know because of the pandemic. Moreover, and this is truly unfortunate, I should note here that there has yet to be a HBO Max agreement in place for Roku and Amazon users. This is a shame because this is the type of film that I could watch repeatedly on a loop. I know I’m probably not alone in this line of thinking.
Seth Rogen stars as the elder Herschel Greenbaum and great-grandson Ben Greenbaum. Even though they are the same age, the two couldn’t be any more different. When we meet Herschel in Shlupsk, the every-town in Eastern Europe, he’s a ditch digger with dreams of one day drinking seltzer water. He soon gets married to Sarah (Sarah Snook)–interrupted by a pogrom in Fiddler on the Roof fashion–and they soon make their way to America. There’s not much character development with Sarah because we barely get to know her. Herschel falls into the pickle brine at Capital Pickle Co. and the timeline fast-forwards a hundred years.
An American Pickle becomes the man-out-of-time film–but only to an extent. Yes, there’s some catching up to do and no, David Bowie is not his great-grandson’s father or mother (The joke is in the trailer so we know it’s going to be in the film.). But for what is in the trailer, there is much that isn’t, and this is where the film can go in a few directions. The decisions being made work in the service of the story while not being too far-fetched for the film. I am not lying in saying that there were tears streaming down my face at one point.
Herschel and Ben are–obviously–of two different generations. While Herschel had big dreams for himself, he’s yet to assimilate in the traditional sense. He’s still very much a man of his simple Jewish faith. Unfortunately and hilariously, he also subscribes to some old-school lines of thinking that are certainly capable of getting him in trouble. This is one of those films that you just have to see for yourself.
The film is well-directed by Brandon Trost. Trost has handled cinematography duties for a number of Point Grey and Lonely Island projects. This time, he goes behind the camera for the first time by himself on a feature film. Having worked as a DP for a number of films starring Rogen, Trost is familiar with the actor’s work.
Simon Rich adapted his own New Yorker novella and if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Seth Rogen wrote the adaptation. Maybe it comes through in Seth’s dual performances but the film absolutely captures his persona. But at the same time, the film is nowhere near as raunchy as last year’s Long Shot or other favorite comedies. In fact, it isn’t even raunchy at all! An American Pickle features what may be the most mature performance we’ve seen from Seth Rogen in a while.
This film is also phone-proof: it has your attention the entire time. You shouldn’t need to reach for your phone while viewing the film won’t want to. This is a major win in that regard!
An American Pickle is most certainly the type of film that will appeal more so to Jewish viewers than a broad comedy audience. With homages to both Fiddler on the Roof and Yentl, it is Seth Rogen’s most Jewish film by far.
DIRECTOR: Brandon Trost
SCREENWRITER: Simon Rich
CAST: Seth Rogen