New to HBO Max: ‘An American Pickle’ Review
If I ever got a chance to make a list of celebrities I would love to smoke weed with, Seth Rogen would easily make the cut. Being one of the most shamelessly outspoken celebrity stoner, activist, cannabis entrepreneur and, above all, one of the best comedic actors of my generation, I always lose my shit when I find out he’s involved in a new film or other creative project. And with COVID ravaging just about every part of American life, I’ve taken his personal advice to indulge in weed and movies to help get me through it. So when I found out Seth Rogen’s most recent film, ‘An American Pickle‘ was released back in August and was HBO Max’s very first original film, I had to roll me up one and check it out.
Seth Rogen in Rare Form
Based on the short story titled Sell Out by Simon Rich, ‘An American Pickle’ opens with Rogen playing Herschel Greenbaum, a Jewish laborer who immigrates to the great U.S. of A alongside his wife in the year 1919. He lands a job at a pickle factory in Brooklyn, and is able to save up enough money to buy two graves, eventually for him and his spouse, in a local Jewish cemetery. Greenbaum comically ends up slipping and falling into a large vat of pickles where he is perfectly preserved for years, until finally waking up in the year 2019. He’s left to wander aimlessly, traversing this new American landscape alone, until he finds and meets his only living relative, his great grandson Ben, who is a freelance app developer.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the movie plays around with the social differences between both time periods and Greenbaum’s hilarious attempt at trying to adapt to a world of hipsters and Twitter. We also see Seth Rogen in rare form – playing both roles of Herschel and Ben. While the shtick of a lead in a film playing two roles isn’t new or original, the film and Rogen’s acting actually incorporate it incredibly well without it ever seeming too tacky. While Rogen isn’t known as an in depth method actor, and his attempt at having an accent is more comical than anything, he does well highlighting each role’s character traits and how the time in which they live shapes and influences who they are. This, and the clashing of these archetypes, is the most essential part of the films plot.
What to Expect
At the heart of the films plot is obvious satire of just how ridiculous modern society can be, especially from the perspective of, say, a year 1919 mindset. It shamelessly pokes fun at everything from the trendiness of hipster culture to the heavy influence of social media on society and culture. It’s surely not as crass as ‘Sausage Party’, not quite as hilarious as Rogen’s line up of Judd Apatow directed films (‘Superbad’, ‘Knocked Up’), and don’t expect the stoner humor of his classic ‘Pineapple Express’; but what this film lacks in those departments, it surely makes up for in depth. And despite not being over saturated with cursing and fart, poop and dick jokes, it still manages to be fun, not take itself too seriously, and even mature in its delivery.
The story and ending has a heavy influence on the importance of family, culture and ancestry. In today’s fast paced, internet dominant culture, it’s easy to lose sight of things like history or family and how these things can play a role in our lives today. This film reassess why these things are, or should be, important while also playing with the age old tale of the hard working immigrant trying to find their piece of the American pie.
‘An American Pickle’ might not be for everyone and some fans may not like the slight deviation from what we have come to expect from Seth Rogen, it is lighthearted and poses some interesting questions to the viewers such as who are you, where do you come from and what that means to you.