August 3, 2020

SCREEN | Seth Rogen Tries to Keep 'An American Pickle' Fresh

"I have idea. We start pickle business."
Seth Rogen Brandon Trost | An American Pickle | HBO Max
Warner Max / Point Grey Pictures
Veteran comedy cinematographer Brandon Trost directs the very silly, magical realism-tinged generational comedy, An American Pickle. Comedian/producer Seth Rogen stars as both a 1920s Jewish-American immigrant pickle factory worker (Hershel) of Eastern European origins and his great-grandson app developer (Ben) a century later in present day gentrified Brooklyn in a sweet but very odd tale of loneliness and family conflict told through history.

Pickle starts off with an extended twentieth-century period prologue in Yiddish co-starring Sarah Snook as Herschel's wife before establishing the fish out of water premise of a man out of time when he gets transported to 2020. However, once the long-lost relatives meet each other, they start a strange entrepreneurial feud based on their conflicting world views. What follows is a mostly half-baked, kind of dated satire about free speech, internet discourse, and cancel culture. Its base question asks if you would get along with your ancestors without much insight.

Scripted by comedy wunderkind Simon Rich and based on his short story "Sell Out", the comedy never reaches a clear focus after it establishes its high comedic concept of generational familial adversaries. Some jokes about Jews and modern technology hit home but it relies too heavily on a contemporary sense of place including various Brooklyn hipster punchlines.

An American Pickle feels both simultaneously timely and out of time. Its period jokes are out of place and the topical humour lacks enough historical reverence. Rogen's impressive dually heartfelt performances as a historical Jew and his own relative work but not enough is done with the old and young displacement despite both men being the same age. It's a light, fairly inconsequential comedy that never goes beyond its premise of explaining the new world to the uninitiated.

An American Pickle is available to stream through Crave starting August 6th.


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