By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Occasionally I am offered the opportunity to review independent films released in markets other than Austin. Indie movies need much more support than major releases, and I am always willing to help little films find audiences, if they do meet certain standards of course. Opening on November 4 in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C., is one such movie that will probably get limited attention, but has much heart and entertainment to offer. With an enjoyable story, lovable characters and much love for Jewish traditions, The Pickle Recipe definitely deserves more attention than it will probably get.
Down on his luck and struggling to make ends meet, Jewish divorcé Joey (Jon Dore) needs to score some big money quickly to catch up on his child support payments and help contribute to his daughter Julie’s (Taylor Groothuis) Bat Mitzvah. Joey, who normally works parties and events as an MC, loses his sound equipment in a freak accident and cannot return to work without it. He seeks out the help of his uncle Morty (David Paymer), who persuades him to participate in a get-rich-quick scheme by acquiring the family’s beloved, but highly secret, pickle recipe from Joey’s shrewd grandmother Rose (Lynn Cohen). Rose has strictly protected her family’s recipe all of her life and it has kept her neighborhood deli business thriving for years. Joey reluctantly agrees to get in his grandmother’s good graces, so that he can get the recipe, but this proves more challenging than expected.
Written by Sheldon Cohn, Gary Wolfson and directed by Michael Manasseri, The Pickle Recipe offers up an amusing and sometimes heartwarming glimpse into the lives and traditions of a Jewish family, but also serves up some valuable lessons regarding familial relationships. Joey is a typical later generation Jewish man, who has taken his heritage and traditions for granted, and gets reacquainted with them as he gets reacquainted with his estranged grandmother. Cohn, Wolfson, and Manasseri keep the material mostly light, though, with plenty of humor. Not all of the humor works well, but enough does, and it often had me smiling and laughing during my viewing. The humor is more along the lines of sitcom material, but I feel that the humor is secondary to its heartfelt messages of familial respect and love.
In addition to the screenplay’s love and respect for Jewish heritage and traditions, the film’s other strength comes from the solid acting by the cast. As the lead character, Jon Dore certainly has an amiable, average Joe quality to him, and this charisma works well in getting an audience to relate well with him and his conflicting feelings. The wonderful and talented Lynn Cohen is absolutely perfect and lovable as the tough, but loving and respectful Grandma Rose. She is a grandmother that anyone of any culture would love to have. The highly recognizable character actor David Paymer delivers a solid turn as the scheming and duplicitous Uncle Morty. Finally, Eric Edelstein offers an amusingly goofy performance as Joey’s best friend Ted, an aspiring, but ridiculously terrible, comedian who agrees to help Joey steal the recipe.
Even though this film may not be one of the top films of the year, I think that it has enough to offer audiences of all cultures. Obviously, people of Jewish heritage will appreciate a tad more of the humor and celebration of their religion and culture, but this movie is also written with the intention to reach an even wider audience. The themes and messages of the story do prove to be universal and should appeal to adults of various ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds. If one doesn’t live in L.A., N.Y.C., or D.C., I recommend checking it out whenever available on a video format or television.