Lynn Cohen in The Pickle Recipe.
Lynn Cohen in The Pickle Recipe.

The Pickle Recipe

by / Nov. 16, 2016 1am EST

Do you recall the long-ago advertising campaign with the tagline “You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy…(some kosher food product or another)”? Well, you may not have to be Jewish to get a kick out of Michael Manasseri’s comedy The Pickle Recipe, but it may help. It also may not be enough for a lot of people, Jew and Gentile both. The Pickle Recipe’s production of fun is rather uneven.

In a certain sense, the movie is a throwback. There was a time when much of American show business seemed to be Jewish-inspired or -controlled. (I have to be careful here; it’s all too easy to lend assistance to the kind of anti-Semites who have crawled out of their rat holes in the wake of Donald Trump’s election campaign, so I should note that most of the financial control of movies and television was in the hands of East Coast WASPs.) The Pickle Recipe seems to harken back to the era of the “You don’t have to be Jewish” ad.

The recipe in question belongs to Rose (Lynn Cohen), an 85-year-old great grandmother and owner of a Detroit delicatessen whose famous specialty and mainstay is her pickles. The recipe is her closely guarded secret, which she apparently intends to take to her grave.

This is a pretty flimsy premise, whose plausibility is subpar even for a little movie that aims for an earthy cuteness. The recipe becomes the secretly sought after object of her thirty-something grandson Joey (Jon Dore), egged on by her son, Joey’s Uncle Morty (David Paymer), each of whom is in serious need of the funds that selling the pickle formula would provide.

The movie’s plotting leads to Joey going to work for Rose as an “assistant busboy” in order to get his hands on the pickle secret, and the ensuing complications include a drug dealer who can analyze the ingredients of almost anything and a preposterously fake rabbi.

Cohen, a veteran of innumerable small parts in TV series and movies, contributes a spirited and engaging effort, coming off as a combination of the late great Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby) and the Yiddish theatre graduate Molly Picon. Dore does his best but he’s forced to sustain a progressively flattening series of contrivances, ending in a make-nice resolution – in a temple sanctuary during a bat mitzvah service, of all places.

You may not have to be Jewish, but it will probably take a little tolerance to swallow what this movie is serving up.