On July 3, history happened: The trailer for An American Pickle, officially known as Seth Rogen’s Yiddish pickle film, dropped. The HBO Max original features not one but two Seth Rogens. The Jewish comedian and actor stars as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling Jewish laborer who immigrates to America in 1920, and his great-grandson, Ben Greenbaum, a computer coder.
The film is based on a four-part short story, “Sell Out,” by Simon Rich that ran in The New Yorker in 2013. Rogen calls it a “classic tale of a guy falling in a pickle vat, getting brined, and waking up 100 years later in modern New York.”
“We essentially shot the whole [movie] twice,” Rogen explains. “It was unique in that way.” Why? “Rogen insisted on growing his Herschel beard. The beard growth was the easy part. ‘I wish I could say growing a beard was hard. All you do is not shave,’ he says. ‘I’ve done many movies through the years. The one thing that is consistent is that fake beards look terrible. We didn’t use any fake beards throughout the entire movie.'”
On that note, let’s break down the trailer.
Schlupsk, Eastern Europe
The trailer begins with Herschel and his wife, Sarah, in Schlupsk (not a real place). Sarah (Sarah Snook) tells Herschel, in Yiddish, “Sometimes I imagine that I work hard, and save, and become rich.” Herschel asks, “How rich?” Sarah replies, “Like ‘afford my own gravestone’ rich!”
Then we get a portrait of Herschel’s life in Schlupsk, where he works as a grave digger (a “pretty good” job). There’s a shot of them getting married under a chuppah, and breaking the glass. (Jewish wedding traditions!)
“The entire opening act is in Yiddish, which is a very difficult language to learn and to perform,” Rogen says.
A pickle time jump
Herschel and Sarah then leave for America, where they have an “American dream.” Herschel gets a job at a pickle factory and promises Sarah they will prosper in 100 years.
And then one day… Herschel falls into a vat of pickles! Gasp!
100 years later, he wakes up:
He finds the world has changed, and that his beloved Sarah died in 1939. (But she got a gravestone! Aw!)
Here’s another shot, which makes me think something unfortunate happens to the gravesite:
Seth meets Seth
Then, Herschel’s great-grandson, Ben, is tracked down. And they meet! And hug! It’s great! Two Seths!
And so begins the plot of the movie. We find out that Ben’s parents have died, and he has no other family. He’s clearly still processing his grief, and Herschel is waking up to a world of grief — they are perfectly matched.
“I understand why you’re a religious person, but I am not,” Ben tells Herschel. Say it with me: This movie is gonna be Jewish.
Other plot points
Seems like another key plot is Herschel starting a pickle business in modern day Manhattan.
And he becomes famous?
And they return to Schlupsk:
The funniest line
At the end of the trailer, Herschel tells Ben, “If man does not throw punch, it’s because he secretly has polio arm. Do something, Ben! Throw your punch!”
“You know they cured polio, right?” Ben replies. “A guy named Jonas Salk.”
“Was he Jew?” Herschel asks.
“He was,” Ben says.
Watch the full trailer here:
And yes, this means we all have to get HBO Max now.
Header image: Hopper Stone/USA Today.