By Patrick Brady, Staff Writer
“An American Pickle” is a comedy film directed by Brandon Trost. While this is Trost’s directorial debut, he previously worked as a cinematographer for other films, such as “The Disaster Artist,” “This is the End,” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
The film features Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum and Sarah Snook as Sarah Greenbaum.
It was released as an HBO Max original film on Aug. 6.
“An American Pickle’s” screenplay was based on “Sell Out,” a short story written by Simon Rich – he also wrote the screenplay for the film.
Even though the film’s premise is comedic, there aren’t a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. In a way, Rogen wasn’t used to his full acting ability. But the film makes up for its lack of comedy in other ways.
Herschel marries Sarah Greenbaum and begins working at a pickle factory after their village is attacked by the Russians in 1919. After fighting off rats, Herschel falls into a tub of pickles, and wakes up 100 years later in modern-day Brooklyn.
While in Brooklyn, Herschel discovers his only living relative is his grandson Ben, also played by Seth Rogen. After getting into a fight, Herschel begins a pickle-selling business out on the streets of New York. Throughout the rest of the film, Herschel and Ben attempt to mend their broken relationship.
Although it was marketed as a comedy, the film had a lot of dramatic elements to it – it came off as more of a drama rather than a comedy. For starters, Herschel and Ben’s relationship is complex and while it was funny to watch Seth Rogen interact with himself, it was off-putting to watch the two versions yell at each other. In fact, Rogen hadn’t had much experience with dramatic roles – with the exception of “50/50.”
The beginning of the film moved way too quickly, and in less than 10 minutes, there were duplicate versions of Rogen interacting with one another. It was almost as if “An American Pickle’s” opening was a brief recap of a separate film.
Once both of Rogen’s characters are reunited with each other, the film’s pacing dramatically slows down, but is still faster compared to other movies. And the one-hour, 30-minute runtime certainly justifies the movie’s brisk pace. Due to this, a lot of the plot seemed rushed.
Although the film lacked in some areas, it was by no means not entertaining. The chemistry between Ben and Herschel was surprisingly sweet at moments, and the dialogue was in no way soapy or unrealistic – aside from a few humorous scenes.
The music was great as well. In energetic and humorous scenes, it was playful and bouncy. But in sad scenes, it was somber and less instrumental.
Rogen was a great choice to play both Ben and Herschel. Not only did he bring the characters to life with his enthusiasm, but it was also fun to see him take on different roles – quite literally in this case.
The cinematography was excellent as well, but the film had a weird color scheme – the colors looked washed-out and drab.
And, most importantly, the film felt like an indie flick. Nowadays, independent films aren’t highly regarded by viewers, but often have way better stories, which aren’t bogged down by CGI and big-budget special effects.
Unlike many Netflix original films, “An American Pickle” is certainly a great original for HBO MAX. Even though films like this often aren’t recognized by streaming platforms, there definitely needs to be more like them in order to draw a wider fanbase.
“An American Pickle” doesn’t quite use its fascinating premise to its full extent, but delivers much more story than anticipated. Rogen does a great job at pleasing his long-time fans, while also entertaining the everyday viewer. The film shows that you don’t need a high budget in order to entertain average viewers.
B – It may not be a perfect film, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for streaming platforms.