Director Brandon Trost’s An American Pickle is a fantastic look at the meaning of family and its evolution over time. Seth Rogen and himself play relatives who are introduced to each other after one awakens after being brined in a pickling factory for over a century. The film is a proactive yet hysterical take on the trappings of success and achievement. American Pickle does have it’s quirky moments where audiences will have to “go” with it but not in a way that lessens the quality of the film. Even amongst Herschel’s fistfight with construction workers he believes are Cossacks and angry mobs pelting him with fruit, there’s a sweetness to the film.
The film centers around the 100-year journey of Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen). In the first act of the film, we learn Herschel’s backstory, which includes how he met his wife Sarah (Sarah Snook). We follow them as they immigrate to America and start a family. During the day, Greenbaum works in a pickling factory, killing the rats. Through a confluence of events involving the rodents cornering him, Herschel falls into a vat of pickles that are being sealed, thus trapping him seemingly forever. A century later, that vat is unsealed, and he awakens into a vastly different world. He’s reunited at the hospital with his great-grandson Ben (also played by Rogen) and has to quickly acclimate himself to a strange world and where he’s lost everything he’s loved.
American Pickle thrives when the focus is on the differences between Herschel and Ben’s values. Herschel is, at times, perplexed by Ben finding excuses not to follow through on his dreams. Ben is incredibly frustrated by his great grandfather’s blunt nature and devotion to religion. The circumstances behind his parent’s tragic deaths have certainly shaped Ben. Herschel accepts tragedy as a part of life. He doesn’t understand how abandoning faith would help anything.
Overall, this is one of better movies that Rogan has ever been part of and kudos to HBO Max for realizing that.