An American Pickle (2020) poster

An American Pickle (2020)

1h 01 min

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Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) is digging a ditch in the small Eastern European town of Schlupsk in 1919. His shovel breaks, not once but twice; first the handle breaks off and when he puts his back into it, using only the blade, it splits lengthwise. He neither glorifies nor bemoans his fate, traveling in a horse-drawn cart.At the market, he is captivated by Sarah (Sarah Snook) at the fish peddler's table, who tells him she is too poor to buy at those prices. Herschel wastes no time doubling his work load and presents the peddler with a coin for his best fish, which he hands to Sarah, who immediately begins to eat it, appreciating Herschel. And so they begin to meet regularly and fall in love.Their wedding ended with a Cossak invasion that destroyed the town. Hand in hand, the couple set sail for America, where they hoped to make their fortune, so that Sarah could afford her very own grave and Hershel would buy seltzer water and feel the bubbles on his tongue. After processing on Ellis Island, Herschel is happy that there are no Cossacks and thinks being called a "Dirty Jew" is a blessing.They make their home in Brooklyn, in a modest apartment with plaster peeling from the ceiling. Herschel, meanwhile, works in a pickle factory, where the boss would only give him a job bludgeoning rats to death with a club. Optimistic to achieve the American Dream, they expect a baby. Herschel also buys a family plot so that they'll be buried side by side but he still can't afford to buy seltzer water.One day, as the colony of rats is walking towards Herschel, he backs away from them. The wooden rail on the platform gives way and he falls into a vat of pickles. The boss puts a lid on the pickle vat and announces to all that the factory has been condemned. All workers file out, leaving Herschel in brine.One hundred years later, two young boys follow their drone into the condemned building and remove the lid from the pickle vat. In moments, as they look into the dark water with pickles floating on the surface, Herschel suddenly sits up, giving out a scream. The spooked boys run away.Scientists hold a national press conference with Herschel sitting with them, dressed in white scrubs. Their explanation is that the pickle brine preserved him perfectly and even though one hundred years have passed, he hasn't aged a day, using graphs and charts to convince a skeptical group of journalists.Herschel is impressed with the scientific presentation but he's sad because all he that he ever had or knew, is gone. A newspaper clipping is found with Sarah's obituary and Herschel insists the scientists check again, though she'd been dead for eighty years. After he punches the scientist in the nose, he's held back by three men. With Herschel restrained to an examination table, the scientist tells him that they found a living relative, his great-grandson, who lives in Brooklyn and is the same age as Herschel. They contact Ben Greenbaum (Seth Rogen), who comes to take Herschel home. In Ben's apartment, Herschel is amused at the soda maker in Ben's kitchen and Ben offers him milk - cow's, almond, pea, etc.Herschel is very emotional, certain that his progeny is strong and successful but Ben, who's a freelance app developer, working to launch "Boop Bop," a service that checks companies' ethics when buying their products, doesn't really know what to make of it. He's not eager to find family. For him, family and religion mean very little and have no value. For Herschel, they mean everything.They locate Sarah's grave, which is in a neglected plot of land, strewn with garbage and a billboard, on the outskirt of the cemetery, Herschel is angry that there is a billboard there and no regard at all is given to the headstones of his relatives, buried there. After one hundred years, his wife, son and grandson and their wives, are buried there. He confronts workers who've come to post a new ad on the billboard, failing to understand modern protocol and calls them Cossacks. Solving things with the hands of a man who had dug ditches from morning til evening, like bear paws, In a rage, with clenched fists, he delivers a punch right to the worker's face, knocking him over. When Ben tries to control Herschel, great-granddad delivers a backhand punch right into Ben's nose. Herschel was out of control and both landed in jail.Once they were released, Herschel is even more determined to make $200,000, in order to buy the cemetery plot, get rid of the billboard and preserve the memory of his beloved Sarah and their children. Ben loses his investor and can no longer launch his app, BoopBop, because of his prison record. He holds nothing back and tells Herschel he is obsolete and not wanted. Herschel, vowing to show Ben how stupid he is, takes to the streets. When he learns that the price of a cucumber is ninety cents a piece, he thinks of what to do. He rummages around trash cans and finds items with which he builds a cart. He then continues and finds discarded cucumbers, a bag of salt and odd glass jars with lids. With no knowledge or regard for hygiene, he arranges the jars on picnic tables in the park, places cucumbers in the jars, pours salt and lets them fill with rain water. He closes the jars and lets them pickle.Once they're ready, Herschel proceeds to peddle his hand made pickles and they become all the rage. His antiquated folkways and mentality, along with his accent, seem refreshing to a couple of young, Generation Z customers, who turn him into an Internet sensation, with everyone flocking to buy his pickles. Riding in a taxi, Ben watches as Herschel calls him stupid, while Herschel, in an interview, tells the public that everything is from refuse and that the rain water he gets runs off the gutters, with the runoff that includes bird droppings and other animal parts providing essential nutrients.Ben leaves the taxi and phones in an anonymous report after which the Health Department shuts down Herschel's operation, until he brings things up to code and pays taxes. Herschel's two biggest fans encourage him to work legally and get interns. He gets a lot of young people to work for him in the park, where he lives in a crude shelter he constructed from boards and other odd ends, in exchange for teaching them how to select and pickle the cucumbers, adhering to code and wearing gloves. One intern, Clara (Molly Evenson) becomes his assistant. Ben is incensed when he sees the young interns selling jars of pickles outside his favorite restaurant.When Herschel boasts to Ben that the billboard is down, Ben convinces him that he must get a Twitter account and tweet everything he feels and wants to say about everything. Ben knows this will be a public relations disaster, with Herschel's complete lack of tact. Herschel dictates to Clara everything he wants to tweet and doesn't care when she is hesitant to post his politically incorrect views. The following morning, Herschel wakes to a group of protesters in the park, who he thinks are customers. This time, Clara joins them and carries a sign.Herschel is now protested and boycotted and the media sees his behavior as strategic. This gets him a political following. Herschel participates in a debate against a university professor, Dr. Kim Ecklund (Joanna Adler). Ben disguises his voice and appearance in the back row and asks Herschel about his thoughts on Christian prayer in public schools. The elder's answer sparks an outrage and the media digs a bit and when his immigration records from a century ago can't be found, his citizenship is revoked and an Order of Deportation against Herschel is issued.Herschel being Herschel, breaks through Ben's window and asks Ben for one last favor, to take him to Canada, where he can start life anew and Ben will be rid of him. On the trip, they bond to some degree. They reach the woods at the snowy border and spot Canadian police taking a break and lay low but when Ben reveals that he brought Herschel down by baiting and turning him into authorities, great-grandpa punches him in the nose and shouts, calling the attention of the police.Herschel grabs Ben's backpack and hides under a fallen tree, where he finds a shaver and removes his facial hair, changes part of his clothing and presents Ben's ID. Here he tells them that he's Ben and points and tells them his great-grandson is Herschel. Herschel is then deported to Schlupsk, where he is very cold and nobody speaks English. One man, who understood him, indicated that the only place he'd find refuge is in the synagogue. Provided with warmth and a mattress and crude bedding on the floor, the old men call him to stand with them in prayer to form a quorum. He is moved by the unfamiliar ritual and gains an awareness and appreciation for the world from which his forebears came.Meanwhile, back in the Brooklyn apartment, Ben looks at an old photo album and finds Ben's childhood stick figure drawing of his family on a piece of paper, calling his father Boop and his mother Bop and then himself. Herschel realizes that family was important to Ben, after all, since he named his app for his parents.Herschel travels to Schlupsk and finds Ben in the synagogue. Herschel takes him to the bench where he and Sarah used to sit and they talk about working together when they go back to New York, pickling all kinds of things and marketing on the Internet to sell them all over the world.