An American Pickle feels like a cross between a Seth Rogen comedy, and a New Yorker short-story, because that’s literally what it is. Simon Rich’s novella series “Sell Out” is adapted near-seamlessly in this fish out of water (or fish out of brine) comedy about an European Jewish immigrant who finds himself preserved in a Brooklyn pickle factory for 100 years.
The plot is heavily contrived, but that’s not always a bad thing; it requires a healthy dollop of belief-suspension, but if you buy into it, it’s a heart-warming, clever and meaningful film.
The film explores “old-fashioned” beliefs and raises the questions of whether one’s unfiltered “opinions” are hate speech or freedom of speech, and gets a beautiful jab or two at Donald Trump and the Alt-Right movement in the process. One can’t help but feel helpless when the protagonist, Herschel Greenbaum, spits out all sorts of horrific insults and mistruths about others, knowing that it’s happening not just in Sci-Fi satire, but in real-life. What’s the difference these days, eh?
On a personal note, this film is one of very few “Jewish-Centric” mainstream comedies. Of course, we’ve had our Yentl’s, we’ve had our Fiddler on the Roof’s, we’ve had our *literally every Woody Allen movie ever*, but watching An American Pickle empowers Jewish actors by having them portray Jewish characters. This seems to be getting more rare by the year, and it’s important. At a time where anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish hatred and general apathy are seeping through regularly (see Wiley), it felt heartwarming to see Rogen’s secondary character – Ben Greenbaum – explore his faith, even if there are a ton of stereotypes peppered in along the way.
If you can buy into two distracting concepts; 1) 100-year-old freezing being totally normal with no side-effects, and 2) Two Seth Rogen’s, then give this film a watch.
Joe Blogs Film Rating: 3.5/5