Ah, those memories of culinary ecstasy on our palates. The yearn to taste that unparalleled delight just once more leading to the declaration that one would die or kill for the opportunity; even better...for the recipe. The Pickle Recipe was born from just such a recollection. Writers/Producers Gary Wolfson and Sheldon Cohn were throwing around ideas during a creative session when Wolfson told Cohn of his late grandmother's "to kill for" Kosher dill pickles. Not long after, Director Michael Manasseri joined the process which, two years in, would begin to shape itself around the (very accurate) perception that Lynn Cohen would be Rose Glickman.
Lynn Cohen (Rose) alone is reason enough to see this film. Rose is a hard working, feisty, funny, loving and smart woman (who by Cohen's accounts is an evolution of Magda her iconic SITC alter-ego). Brought to life so genuinely by Cohen, Rose continues to work hard at Irv's Deli which she built with her late husband. She visits a senior center regularly where she brings food for some of the residents. One being Arnie (Ronald Cohen), a dear old friend and longtime employee at the deli. These scenes are particularly heartwarming, and shared by actors who happen to be wed. We'll get to that later. Unfamiliar with her grown grandson (from her late daughter) and estranged from her son, the conniving, untrustworthy Morty (Oscar nominee David Paymer), she is matriarch to her surrogate family; the staff at the deli.
When Detroit MC/DJ and single father Joey Miller (Jon Dore) loses all of his equipment in a freak accident just weeks away from his daughter Julie's Bat Mitzvah, he finds himself turning to his uncle Morty for help. He'll soon discover Uncle Morty's penchant for untruths and selfish leanings. Joey's ability to get wrangled up in his uncle's scheme while seeing the dissonance of all his actions gives him an endearing quality thanks to the parity which Jon Dore lends to the confidence and aloofness of his character. While you feel protective of Rose and want to throw a pan at Morty's head, you can't help but root for Joey to come out on top (and learn the err of his ways in the process).
Morty talks Joey into "obtaining" Rose's famous (and beloved by all) pickle recipe which she has vowed to take to the grave. Joey pops in at his grandmother's deli for visit. Eschewing warnings that no one enters the kitchen while Rose is making her pickles, he arrogantly proclaims himself exception by grandson and proceeds. What ensues is one of the most memorable funny scenes of the movie in a brevity that legitimizes its reality.
In a scene that surely must have been as much fun to shoot as to watch, Rose takes the kitchen hose to her grandson as if he were a blazing pyre to be put out and manages to kick him out of her kitchen, but not before a projectile pan narrowly misses his head. Her initial alarm upon him entering draws on an earlier scene involving a taser gun (which, luckily, does not get used as the hose does) for added laughter.
With a Jewish family at the center of the story, the cultural references provide another layer of humor to the film. Fellow members of the tribe, in particular, will feel a deep familiarity and connection with their specificity. Some of the hijinks draw from here. Which is how we arrive at "Rabbi Ted." Ted (Eric Edelstein) is recruited by his friend Joey to portray a rabbi for his grandmother in hopes that she will entrust him with her pickle recipe. His qualifications? Having been in a production of Fiddler on the Roof. When Joey brings "Rabbi Ted" to Rose's home, hilarity further ensues as it, ahem, climaxes with Rose discovering that Rabbi Ted does not possess a quality expected from a rabbi. Metaphors and puns abound without undermining humor or charm.
The Pickle Recipe is a heartwarming film full of laugh out loud funny moments and nuance performances. It also happens to be a film sprinkled with messages in a lighthearted, but sincere fashion. Some resolutions do occur a little too quickly and effortlessly for there not to be a slight detraction from the relatability. Otherwise, it is a fully enjoyable and touching film. I hasten to say even inspiring. Themes of independence, patience, forgiveness, redemption and family are interwoven throughout; and, captured all at once in one moving scene.
Lynn Cohen (Rose) shares the scene with her husband, Ronald "Ronnie" Cohen (Arnie). In it, Rose visits a now frail, but once vibrant man. He asks for her husband which she reminds him has passed. They go on to speak of the decades of friendship and collaboration at the deli. She speaks of his renowned talent as a chef about town for so long. He asks, again, for her husband. The poignancy of this scene is not diminished by its subtlety. Although brief and not the most verbose of scenes, the depth and magic in these actors eyes project volumes. Understanding the overall tone of the film is not intended to be a vehicle of strong campaign, I still feel there was a missed opportunity to expand on this both for the story element, and thirst to see these two share more scenes.
In the end, The Pickle Recipe is a delightfully enjoyable film not void of substance. In spite of the occasional "delivered" line by an actor or two, the characters are truthfully brought to life by a talented cast; most notably, Lynn Cohen. She is the gem at the center of this film. I want to work at Irv's just to hang with Rose.
Hear about it straight from Lynn Cohen in my recent interview with her right here on Flick Direct...