HBO Max deliver their first original film this month, with the Seth Rogen-led An American Pickle.
Based upon Simon Rich’s short story, Sell Out, An American Pickle tells the story of Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen). Starting off in the year 1919, Herschel immigrates to America from the Eastern European town of Schlupsk (perhaps a play on Slupsk, a town in Poland). He and his pregnant wife aim to make a better world for their family to grow up in.
However, tragedy strikes. Herschel earns a living by killing rats at a pickle factory, but he accidentally falls into a vat of pickles as the factory is closed down. Perfectly preserved for a hundred years in the brine, Herschel finally escapes into a modern day Brooklyn. Here, he meets and is taken in by his great grandson, Ben (also Rogen – and a beardless one, at that).
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What follows isn’t actually a story about a man out of time. Although several comical uses of that trope are toyed with, the Captain America style concept isn’t the point here. The science behind it is briefly glossed over so the film can focus on its intended plot. Instead, the film is actually about two similarly driven men with an eye for business who have two very different attitudes and outlooks on family and life.
Whilst Herschel is confident he can create a pickle empire, Ben has been working on a product ethics app for years. The two men come to blows and begin sabotaging each other’s business ventures.
Other than Herschel’s thick Russian accent, there are only a smattering of laughs. But that’s because there aren’t really that many jokes. Each one is precise and lands perfectly, resulting in the laugh being genuine, but that genuinity only really comes because the characters are so likeable and well-rounded.
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All credit there goes to Seth Rogen. Rogen delivers his best performance – or rather, performances – to date. It’s amazing to see how believable he is as two very different characters. Whereas Ben is mild mannered and non confrontational, Herschel is outspoken and ready to do violence to anyone who opposes him.
Their obscure relationship is very much at the core of the film and it’s a lot of pressure on Rogen, who is essentially the only actor to deliver more than five minutes of screen time. But he delivers and pulls off a great one man show and easily one of the most enjoyable films of the year.
A synopsis reads:
‘An immigrant worker falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. The brine preserves him perfectly, and when he emerges in present day Brooklyn, he finds that he hasn’t aged a day.’
An American Pickle is scheduled to be released on August 6th, exclusively streaming on HBO Max. The film stars Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Molly Evensen, Eliot Glazer, Kalen Allen and Jorma Taccone.