Exploring Faith and Family in HBO Max’s ‘An American Pickle’

On August 6th, HBO Max released the film An American Pickle in which Seth Rogen pulls a “Parent Trap” and plays both of the lead characters. The film, directed by Brandon Trost and written by Simon Rich, is about a man named Herschel Greenbaum who worked in a pickle factory back in the 1920’s and was trapped inside a vat of pickles for 100 years until he was found alive in 2020. Unfortunately, all of his family members and descendents had passed away except for one, his great grandson Ben Greenbaum, an app maker who lives in Brooklyn.

This film is far different from the typical movies we see Rogen star in as it has a historic element  as well as a more serious side. However, there are still those great moments of Seth-type humor blended throughout the film. Similar to the other movies he produces, An American Pickle is quite satirical and has some outrageous plot points such as Herschel beating up construction workers, hiring interns to save his pickle business and almost running for president. 

While the flick may have felt a bit silly and ridiculous at times, I appreciated the significant message that it sent — especially being Jewish myself. At the start of the film when Herschel meets Ben and Ben tells him about all of his dead relatives, including his parents, Herschel suggests that the two of them go to shul and say the Mourner’s Kaddish together. Ben then tells Herschel that he no longer remembers the words to the Kaddish nor practices Judaism. Then later in the film when Ben finds himself at a crossroads and missing his parents, he is asked to say the Kaddish beside a group of men at Synagogue and the words come back to him.

From Ben sabotaging Herschel’s pickle business to Herschel getting Ben deported, Herschel and Ben’s relationship was extremely rocky but by the end of the film they both learned the importance of family — and pickles.

At the heart of the film, An American Pickle is about a man who finds his way back to his faith and his family. I believe that Ben’s story can resonate with many modern Jews who have strayed from their roots. An American Pickle is the perfect movie to watch while fasting this Yom Kippur or during the rest of the High Holidays. 

An American Pickle is available to stream on HBO Max.

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