The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
From Simon Rich, the creator of FX’s Man Seeking Woman and TBS’ Miracle Workers, An American Pickle is Rich's debut feature and HBO MAX’s first original film, and it manages to be as strange as it sounds.
Brandon Trost has collaborated with Seth Rogen on six separate occasions as cinematographer, making An American Pickle their first directorial collaboration. This is one of those films where the direction may be heavily influenced by the page, but even so, Trost’s direction is deprived of a natural flow. Rich’s bizarre pickle centric story crams so much into such a little runtime that the film occasionally exhibits choppiness with its editing.
Simon Rich certainly has his fans out there, and I happen to be one of them with his outlandish, strange humor encompassing the entirety of a show's run. His humor and storylines certainly won’t sit well with some, but for those that do understand, they will appreciate what he’s trying to do. With Rich’s first feature film, An American Pickle, he pulls all the punches by telling the story of a man who works at a pickle factory and suffers an accident where he is sealed inside a vat of brined pickles; preserved, he wakes from his slumber 100+ years later. Based on a short story by the scribe himself, believe me it’s as weird as it sounds, and it gets weirder – as the film progressed I became absorbed in the story and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Seth Rogen is working double time, quite literally, as he plays both Herschel Greenbaum and his great grandson, Ben Greenbaum. I’m willing to admit that the first five minutes of the runtime really took some getting used to as Herschel’s accent coming out of Rogen feels entirely unauthentic, but once he is brined and in our century, his acting becomes less distracting. As someone who knew the premise long before the trailer arrived, I stayed away from it, so naturally I never thought Rogen would be playing his own great grandson – so that was a surprisingly comical surprise. Seth Rogen is the absolute star of the show in An American Pickle, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some faults. Rogen brought in one of my personal favorite performances last year as Fred Flarsky in Long Shot, so it’s unfortunate to see him step down slightly in quality here. Everyone brings their own personal energy to the story, but it all reflects on the absurdity of the script they are reading from – some scenes may seem forced, cheesy, or unprofessionally shot, however as a fan of Rich’s style, that’s how he intended them to be.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"...Infinite Amounts Of Strange And Not For Everyone."
Visually speaking, the film has this grim, grey filter layered over everything, making the film seem out of this natural world. It may seem like a go-to answer in this review, but it’s all in the details of Rich’s content; Man Seeking Woman & Miracle Workers share a similar aesthetic. Love it or hate it, An American Pickle is littered with details that make you feel as though you’re within an alternate universe. The only notable downside, which won’t hinder the rating for this category, is John Guleserian’s cinematography which functions but ultimately is a complete letdown for myself when in comparison with his other work: Love, Simon & About Time.
An American Pickle (2020) | HBO MAX
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composer Nami Melumad delivers a serviceable score within the runtime of An American Pickle. I recognized it was in the background, it was never hidden, but it also was never obnoxiously in the forefront either to distract from the happenings on screen. If Melumad’s score was placed in a lineup, there’s no distinguishing factor that would make me know it was hers.
An American Pickle is an odd choice to be the very first original film to appear on HBO MAX, however as a fan of Simon Rich’s bizarre nature, I truly enjoyed the feature. Sure, An American Pickle is infinite amounts of strange and not for everyone, but its fascinating concept and consistent ludicrous humor makes it one to, at the very least, try to enjoy. Mark my words, An American Pickle might not be an instant hit but will surely in time become a go-to cult classic.
Stream An American Pickle Beginning August 6th on HBO MAX