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I loved this movie.It wasn't depressing in the least.Neil Simon has written many brilliant and funny plays,this being one of them(and The Out of Towner's,also with Lemmon).Jack plays a man who gets fired from his job after working there half his life.Anne plays his wife who gets another job while Jack has a breakdown and they struggle to go on with the everyday life and calamities that face them.I laughed at so many of the lines.I laughed when Jack Lemmon was yelling at the New Yorkers out of his balcony after his house had been robbed,i laughed when he was banging back on the wall at his neighbours,when he and Anne had to climb all the stairs because the elevator is broken,the look on their faces is painful but funny! Jack could play a miserable on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown man,and make you really laugh aswell. Also features a young Sylvester Stallone before his Rocky days. I love it and its one of those films i can watch over and over.
I must confess I have a bias for films of the seventies. Most of my all time
favourite films were made in that decade and this is one of
Jack Lemmon is a New York middle executive who is retrenched. We watch as he slides into depression. Their is some fine humour in this film, which, incidentally was not well received critically, but it is really the underlying drama that makes this such a great film. It is an intensely personal film for me and, apart from some overacting, there is little I can criticise. It is an incisive and briskly paced comedy drama which I never tire of viewing.
By the way, watch out for cameos by pre-fame Sylvester Stallone and F. Murray Abraham.
Being a Jack Lemmon fan, I can't help but be biased when it comes to watching his films. But I have to say, even by Lemmon's standards, "Prisoner" is one of his finest performances. He displays a broad range of emotion as Mel Edison, a corporate exec who falls victim to the unemployment crisis of the seventies. Anne Bancroft is nicely cast as his wife, Edna--it's almost hard to believe watching this film that this is the same woman who played in "G.I. Jane" as a crooked senator. And, although another viewer here frowned upon the casting of Gene Saks' as Mel's brother Harry, I always enjoy seeing the director in front of the camera (Saks directed another of my faves, "The Odd Couple"). The direction is pretty tight, and the interludes between acts include humorous voice-overs from a fictional radio announcer (you'll have to listen closely to catch some of the jokes). Look for Sylvester Stallone in a cameo appearance. I heartily recommend this film to all Jack Lemmon fans, as well as to those who enjoy a good comedy that's not all slapstick and guffaws.
That moment of Anne Bancroft's is my favorite part of the entire film,
often imitated where I used to work.
No one loves urban blight like Neil Simon, and no one depicts it as well. "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" goes much further than "The Out of Towners" because now, the leads (Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft) are actually living in a New York apartment, sleeping in 12 degree air conditioning in their bedroom during a heat wave and sweating everywhere else. Simon leaves nothing out: not having the right change for the bus, the elevator being out, no water, noisy neighbors, mean neighbors, a cheaply put together building, robberies in broad daylight, etc. Lemmon plays a 22-year veteran of a business who is fired, suffers a nervous breakdown, and goes into psychiatric care. His problems go beyond the loss of his job - he has to cope with his country dwelling brother Harry (Gene Saks) and his two sisters (Elizabeth Wilson and Florence Stanley) who want to help but only succeed in being aggravating. Also, his wife has gone back to work as a production assistant and is never home.
This is really a comedy-drama that shows the enormous range of both actors. The beautiful Bancroft is great as an empty nester who tries to be supportive of her husband, who is losing it, as she goes toward the same territory; Lemmon is alternatively a riot, as annoying as Felix Unger, and as sad as his character in "Save the Tiger" while he attempts to work through his issues and find out who he is.
With a high rise at Second Avenue and E. 88th St. as a backdrop, "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" is timely today because it takes place during a recession. Suddenly, a lifestyle that wasn't so outrageous to begin with is hard to keep up, and nerves fray.
City dwellers won't find it difficult to relate to this film, and today, with jobs cuts and loss of income, nobody will. Lots of fun.
I've always thought of Neil Simon as being the one playwright
consistently able to capture the genuine flavor of New York as a
backdrop to the realistic personalities of his characters. Not being a
New Yorker - Silicon Valley is about as far away as you can get - I'm
afraid I have not been drawn to movies of his plays as strongly as to
But Prisoner of Second Avenue is an exception. Maybe it's because I am indeed in Silicon Valley, where layoffs are something we all get to experience. But this movie captured so aptly the craziness of being laid off, staying home all day - seeing only the one you love (but starting to hate him/her too as an extension of your own self-hatred). Making petty grievances huge, and trying to pretend the truly huge issues no longer exist. And worrying about the bills, and the clothes, and how silly the family behaves when money gets involved. And how the bad luck seems to snowball. And how "therapy" sessions seem so futile.
The acting is superb - but I don't know of a movie where Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft have ever given us any less. Bancroft, in particular, when she makes the transition to anger, is perfect. Thankfully we're not handed any sop at the end either.
The subject is so realistic that I don't find it funny at all - but that's a failing of the times we live in, not the movie. A great flick.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie from 1975, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, is one of Jack Lemmon's funniest films ever. He and Anne Bancroft, who plays his wife, are so wonderful. Jack Lemmon plays a man who works an office job and is always complaining about the problems going on in his life and around the apartment building that he and his wife live in. It is cold in one room, hot in the other, can't sleep well, etc. are his complaints. Shortly later on, he loses his job and is extremely stressed out BIG TIME about it, then several days later, his wife comes home from getting groceries and finds that their apartment was robbed!! Ouch! This is a very funny piece of entertainment with a stressed out man having a nervous breakdown and his wife trying to reassure him that things will be okay. I really love the remarks that Lemmon and Bancroft's characters trade to each other in this movie. It is so hilarious, you will just laugh till your sides hurt. I don't know if this film is available on DVD yet or not, but if it isn't, you are just going to have to rely on seeing it on some cable channel. If it is on TV, make a date to tape it.
Saw this movie on TV again the other day, was disappointed coz i did'nt
even know it was on...so missed half...but seen it before so knew what
to expect. Even though this movie was initially a stage play it
transfers well to movie, well written and acted with such timing
between all actors in the movie especially the 2 main characters who
bounce off each other with consummate ease.The hilarity and one liners
which come thick and fast are a joy to listen to and my feeble attempts
to remember and use them myself only add weight to this joy of a
comedy. I am going to see if this movie is available on DVD so that i
can pause and rewind every funny line i hear to use for my own
pleasure, though i will not claim them to be my own as this would be an
insult to the writer and the late great Jack Lemmon and his late great
co-star Anne Bancroft who deliver with such togetherness like a well
Do yourself a favour, on the next rainy day go to the rental shop get this movie, take the phone off the hook, shut the curtains ( drapes)don't answer the door and watch this movie and savour every word, and i dare you not to laugh, and if you don't then ring up the undertakers because boy are you dead !!!!
After giving a positive review of the (apparently) universally-maligned
"Disaster Movie", I thought it'd be nice to give another positive
review of a comedy that, unlike the one I've mentioned, is very-well
written and stars the cream of the Broadway crop. Jack Lemmon is
excellent as the neurotic and ambiguously-crazy apartment dweller,
harried as he is by noisy neighbors, chronic unemployment, and
Sylvester Stallone bumping into him at the park. Neil Simon is a
maestro of dark comedies about harried New Yorkers ("Biloxi Blues" with
Matthew Broderick is another excellent example). In spite of Simon's
cool dialogue and ability to make brilliant observations about minor
events (such as a ransacked apartment), this movie would not be superb
without Lemmon's proficient performance. Anne Bancroft seems like the
perfect foil for Lemmon to play off against, and she fulfills that roll
beautifully. Lemmon shows he as just as brilliant with comedy as he is
drama (i.e. "The China Syndrome"), and this movie is just another
example of why he was an underrated Hollywood legend.
P.S. Pay close attention to the one-liners disguised as news reports in the voice-overs by Gary Owens.
Worth a chuckle or more, this sometimes hilarious comedy hits a raw
nerve with anyone who has lived in an apartment building where you can
hear all the noise you never wanted to (at all sorts of hours), in a
world that starts with listening to the radio news detail one horror
That's the way the Broadway play started. The lights went out before the curtain opened and all you heard was a radio announcer delivering one crazy incident after another on the local news. That was the prologue to what you knew was about to follow. Then the curtains parted and the play began.
JACK LEMMON and ANNE BANCROFT play off each other brilliantly, but when all is said and done, there's just something missing in this Neil Simon comedy. The payoff that you should feel when the movie ends, just isn't there.
And yet, when you hear some of the news, it's almost quaint. Just think what was supposed to get a laugh: a news flash that a Polish freighter had just run into the Statue of Liberty. How tame!! Imagine what kind of news flash there would have been if this were written after 9/11.
Good supporting roles from Gene Saks, as Lemmon's brother, and Elizabeth Wilson and Florence Stanley as his sisters.
It may be lesser Simon, but it's still worth seeing, especially for New Yorkers.
With all of the movies I've seen in my life, I have to say that this movie was the best! If you like to laugh or just need to laugh, this movie is for you. Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft were at their best (and their best is great) and nothing about this movie fell short. I find myself quoting this movie 25 years after I first viewed it. If you appreciated the premise of the silly 60's show, Green Acres--where Oliver was constantly frustrated by life, then you'll love this superbly-done movie. As a bit of trivia, this was Sylvester Stallone's first movie, albeit in only one scene. When you're done watching this movie, watch it again to pick up the nuances you missed the first time around. Clear your evening, pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and be ready to laugh as Lemmon and Bancroft take you on the comedy ride of a lifetime.
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