Lost in Yonkers (1993) Poster

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10/10
Most Underrated Film of All-Time
magicinthenight11 May 2006
After a triumphant run on Broadway, the film adaptation of "Lost In Yonkers" was completely snubbed at all of the major film awards ceremonies. Neil Simon's classic is brilliantly written and the direction is so simple, yet very subtle. But what really makes the film work is the performances. Dreyfuss is no Kevin Spacey, but does what he can with the role. The two boys are played expertly by their respective actors. Irene Worth reprises her Tony-award winning role and I thank god for that. She is spectacular as the stern grandmother.

But the stand-out here is Mercedes Ruehl. The woman delivers one of the most underrated performances in film history as Aunt Bella. She won a Tony, why no Oscar? Seriously, she is *that* good. Ruehl delivers such a magnificent performance as the slightly disturbed woman. She really should have two Oscars on her mantle.

GRADE: A ACTING: A WRITING: A+ DIRECTING: B MVP: RUEHL
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10/10
Touching, Poignant, Funny, and Well Executed
Texasguy23 January 2000
After watching this movie, I became interested in finding out about the young actor Brad Stoll who played the role of Jay. How sadenned I was to learn that he died of cancer. His talent was very promising, and it is tragic that his career was cut short at such a young age. Nonetheless, this film serves as a testimony to his fine ability, and I never tire of watching it. The performances are excellent across the board, and the story well written. I give it my highest recommendation.
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Wonderful Film
kevita1 January 2003
The mistake most often made when approaching a Neil Simon piece is the thought-line "if Simon wrote it - it must be a comedy". LOST IN YONKERS like THE GINGERBREAD LADY (filmed as ONLY WHEN I LAUGH) is most certainly not a comedy - not that it's not funny. What it is is a heartbreaking story about two brothers who by circumstance end up in the care of their severe Grandmother. Thanks to the powers that be - both Mercedes Ruehl and Irene Worth reprise thier stage roles in the film. Both won the Tony for the stage. Both deserved and Oscar for the film. There are several funny bits amidst this disfunctional family fest - and some very tender moments as well. I highly recommend it - just don't sit down with a bucket of popcorn and expect THE ODD COUPLE. Simon's writing has matured far beyond those days and is rich and wonderful.
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8/10
Bad "Mom " - Good Movie
GTWL42 September 2001
"Lost In Yonkers" was a nice blend of comedy and drama. Until watching it for the second time, I didn't even recognize Richard Dreyfuss to be the 'Uncle Louie' character, but I did know him by his voice. He played QUITE a character: An extremely stylish, offbeat criminal with a sense of humor.

The main character, 'Bella', was 'slow', according to her domineering mother. She was a delightful young woman who was loved by her nephews, siblings, and all those who knew her. Bella was ready to have a life on her own--the problem being--her Mom.

I really enjoyed this nostalgic, WWII era, movie. I recommend it to audiences of all ages.
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10/10
A poignant insight in cold cradles
af22420 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film more than any other epitomises for me what a certain kind of upbringing I call "a cold cradle" can do to a person. Children get their first impressions of the world through the beliefs of their parents. These impressions are indelible. Normally, early childhood is spent in the protection of loving parents, but what if these parents are not the cuddling kind? What if they despise your weakness of crying, instead of saying words of comfort? What if there is no place in your family to share feelings and fears? Even when you later discover that it is OK to feel, the defences you have built around your personality in your early years are very difficult to undo and if you have overcome them they are still triggered when you have to deal with your family.

In the film we see four adult siblings who have survived the misery and rebelled, each in different ways. Most people fortunately don't know how terrible it is for the father to put his two boys into his mother's care, his fears seem exaggerated, surely a stern grandmother can't be too bad. But her type of sternness is very damaging not just to overly sensitive people. We see this more clearly as the story unfolds and we learn how each member of the family has coped and yet no one has been able to topple the matriarch from her throne. But as she takes the education of yet another generation in her hands, the tensions mount to breaking point.

This film is not a comedy, though it has its funny moments. It is not a complete tragedy either, and it avoids becoming bleak and depressing.

I think its greatest value is in showing those who have had a warm cradle -- fortunately most -- what it's like to have had a cold one, if it helps increase a general understanding of the emotional difficulties that these people have to overcome to unlock their shielded hearts to their fellow men.
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9/10
Touching and thoughtful
kmccalle20 December 1998
Memorable, well thought-out characters interact in this family disrupted by WWII. Set (of course) in Yonkers, a domineering grandmother inhibits aspirations of her offspring with selfish, puritanical behavior deriving from her own, difficult upbringing.
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10/10
Excellent screen adaptation of a great play.
PWNYCNY14 July 2012
This movie is an excellent screen adaptation of a great play. Instead of being hokey or sentimental, the story provides a candid portrayal of a family in crisis, as each family member is forced to deal with issues that have long repressed. Essentially, the story centers around the relationship between an overbearing mother, performed magnificently by Irene Worth, and her confused daughter, played by Mercedes Ruehl. Ms. Ruehl's performance is a tour-de-force. She completely dominates this movie. The climactic scene between the mother and daughter is both poignant and powerful, and raises this movie to the level of great cinema and drama. Richard Dreyfuss also gives a strong performance as the brother with the bravado but also with a heart. This movie should be a must-watch for anyone who likes screen adaptations of plays and for people in general who like strong drama.
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10/10
The best movie of the year!
None-14514 August 1999
Neil Simon finally does some serious drama in this better than best movie. Although the movie is based mainly around the two boys, I believe the moral is how one individuals power can affect the lives and dreams of everyone else.

Although the movies ending was not a very happy one, it was nice to take a break from the routine "and they lived happily ever after" sort of ending. It's nice to have a not so nice ending in which most real life stories have.

The movie was very well planned out and the 1940's theme was very well detailed. Although the movie was nowhere near as good as the play, I still believe it's cast deserves a high rating.
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Lighthearted Comedy-Drama
muveebuff156 August 2002
Lost in Yonkers is originally a play by Neil Simon, adapted for the silver screen. With a cast including Richard Dreyfuss, Merchedes Rheul, and Irene Worth, this movie has comedy written all over it. Irene Worth plays "Grandma" a hard, bitter, miserable old lady whose five children each have something wrong with them as a result of a miserable childhood. Her daughter Bella (Rheul) is the only child to still live at home and has a slight mental handicap which adds a lot of humor to the film. One of her sons owes 9,000 dollars to a loan shark as a result of his late wife's medical bills. He has a year to pay it back, but cannot take a job unless he has someone to look after his children; 13 year-old Arty (Mike Damus) and 15 year-old Jay (Brad Stoll). Leaving him with no choice, his debts force him to leave his children with his mother. The whole film is just delightful, a light-hearted comedy that takes a few dramatic turns but ultimately will leave you satisfied and content. Brilliant performances by Damus and Stoll who hilariously portray their characters' wonderment at the absolute wierdness of their family. Two thumbs up!
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9/10
A Comedy That Will Make You Cry
brujavu15 September 2012
I've lost count of how many times I've seen this movie. It's one of my favorites, and I know I'll return to it again and again, especially when I feel the need to "feel something." The story is ostensibly about the adventures of two young boys left in the care of their hostile grandmother who owns a candy store and their run-ins with their gangster-uncle and their allegedly mentally challenged Aunt Bella. But for me, childlike Aunt Bella, brilliantly portrayed by Mercedes Ruehl, really steals the show. In spite of her reputation for being dim-witted, she displays an extraordinary depth of perception regarding the motivations of the other characters and the emotional courage to accept them with all their limitations. One of the most poignant moments in the movie for me is where the grandmother, who has suffered so much loss in her life, and prides herself on never having shed a tear in spite of all this loss, finally has the chance to be vulnerable. Does she take the chance? You'll have to watch the movie to find out!
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9/10
Definitely a Classic!
Gunn6 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I really liked this film and am surprised I haven't seen it before. It's a very nostalgic film with great characters, a wonderful story and crisp, sharp dialog by the Master, Neil Simon. The acting is superior all around, the art direction, costuming, music score and cinematography are also topnotch. Story involves a middle class, New York Jewish family who endure hard times during World War II, as Eddie, the father's (Jack Laufer), business has to be shut down, the mother is deceased, and Eddie plans to sell scrap metal to get established again and to aid the War effort. In order to do so he arranges with his stern, no-nonsense mother to take in the boys, Jay (Brad Stoll) and Arty (Mike Damus). Their demanding grandmother (Irene Worth) is so hard core that the boys have to earn their keep via hard labor. Their fear of her is alleviated somewhat by their dizzy, but loving Aunt Bella (Mercedes Ruehl) and the arrival of their small time crook Uncle Louie (Richard Dreyfuss) who is being pursued by two inept gangsters. Director Martha Coolidge keeps the story moving along and with panache. It's too difficult to single out any of the cast for best performance as all are superb in their roles. This is one terrific film which I will eventually rate a 10 after another viewing. For a Neil Simon film it is very emotionally fulfilling and heart-warming, but it does have its comic moments too.
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7/10
Great and funny, but inconsistent
duce1227 July 1999
This film is a good look on life during World War II. The film starts out as a comedy involving two youngsters, then evolves into a family drama towards the end. Richard Dreyfuss' character overreacts, is annoying, serves as a major distraction, and hardly has any screen time. Ruehl deserved an Oscar for her performance.

In all, a good warm film.
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8/10
Surprisingly deep
antimatter3315 September 2018
How often today do we see films about entire families? Even the missing are still in the frame here, as alive in memory as in space. The acting here from everyone is just superb. The feeling of the stage is wonderfully present. This film belongs to a somewhat small sample of a stage play perfectly realized on the screen.

There are a lot of funny lines in what becomes a very serious movie. Arty has the best one - "Do you think the Germans would let some Jew in Poland send $5000 to a Jew in Alabama?" Pretty sharp for a 12-year old in 1944.

An odd aspect of the film which I think makes the presentation even more theatrical, is the choice to film in the environs of Cincinnati, as far from Yonkers as could be imagined. This serves to isolate the family even more, in a complex way which cannot be described. It's a little like the world of Willy Loman, half real and half imagined.

I really enjoyed this film.
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10/10
Runs the gamut...
poe42618 February 2015
LOST IN YONKERS has more going for it than most movies: solid filmmaking, from script to final cut; topnotch, flawless performances by an outstanding cast; humor and drama of the highest order. Dreyfuss is incapable of a bad performance; Mercedes Ruehl holds her own (perhaps even outshining Dreyfuss in this instance); Irene Worth is the living, breathing embodiment of The Survivor- hard as steel, perhaps, but not without good reason(s); and David Strathairn as the hapless Johnny is to be pitied, to be sure- but it's the two boys, Jay (the late Brad Stoll, in a winning turn) and Arty (Mike Damus, in a performance so nuanced that it belies his years), through whose eyes we see it all, who steal the show. With direction like this (by Martha Coolidge), it COULDN'T fail. Check it out.
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8/10
Great comedy drama
preppy-324 January 2015
This is based on a Tony Award winning Neil Simon play. In 1942 an unemployed widowed father leaves his two young sons to live with his tyrannical mother (Irene Worth) while he searches for work. Also around is Bella (Mercedes Ruehl) who is 36 but mentally 16 and Louie (Richard Dreyfuss) who has gotten involved with gangsters.

Great movie. They perfectly captured the 1940s look and feel. Also the script is great. Unlike other Simon pictures (which are little more than one joke after another) this perfectly mixes the comedy and drama. The acting is mostly fantastic. Worth is a little one note but Dreyfuss and especially Ruehl are incredible in their roles. This was not a big hit and unjustly overlooked at the Oscars for acting but it's well worth catching.
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7/10
The Play is better
kentatm17 November 2000
The film itself is a fairly good one. It can be touching at times and Bella is well done as is Grandma. (of course these are actors that did them in the play.) I don't like how Louie is done at all, just seems out of place. Also, the boys are the core of the play but not in the movie. They are the comic relief for some very heavy drama and the play is more about how they deal with the situation rather than how the family comes together at the end. I didn't really get the sense that they were brothers either. The movie is good, but read or see the play for a better experience
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Sometimes funny but mostly unpleasant
vchimpanzee19 May 2003
The movie begins with Eddie and his sons Jay and Arty making a hot automobile ride to see the boys' grandmother in Yonkers during World War II (no air conditioning, except in theaters). The boys are told to wait in the grandmother's candy store until their grandmother is ready to see them. At the store, the boys meet their crazy Aunt Bella. Then they come upstairs and find out the real reason for their visit: their father has to take a job down South to pay off their debts, and since their mother has just died, he has no choice but to leave the boys with their grandmother, who doesn't like kids to begin with.

The boys have to make the best of the situation, and of course their grandmother is very strict and expects them to work in the candy store. Meanwhile, Bella has a boyfriend Johnny, a movie usher who cannot serve in the military because, like Bella, he is disabled. They want to open a restaurant and Bella's mother has the money hidden somewhere. The boys try to find the money and manage to get in trouble for that and other things. Later, their Uncle Louie shows up and shows the boys a good time, though the boys believe he is a gangster, and there are some bad guys after him for whatever reason. Jay wants to work with his uncle, even if he is dishonest in what he does.

Mercedes Ruehl was the standout performer, showing a character obviously quite disturbed at first but almost 'normal' later, especially when she confronts the mother who has mistreated her all these years. Irene Worth made a stern grandmother who only rarely showed a tender side, and even after a bitter argument with Bella, she was only subdued but not loving (we do learn some of what made her this way). Richard Dreyfuss came across quite nicely too, and I thought all the major actors played their characters well. The situation just wasn't one I enjoyed watching that much.

One character I was glad to see only a few times was Aunt Gert, who had a breathing problem that grew tiring quickly.

This movie was not easy to watch, though it could be funny at times. Based on a Neil Simon play, it should have been a mix of comedy and poignant drama, and sometimes that mix works. For me it didn't, and about two-thirds of the way through, the movie went completely off track and never really recovered. I can see some people liking this type of movie, but it wasn't really for me.
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9/10
A Supeerb Use of Culturally Themed Comedy-Drama
tabuno16 January 2019
2 July 2013. This Neil Simon's comedy-drama incorporates a wry sense of Jewish humor as well as a wit of dialogue mostly missing in today's 21st century movies of the same genre. Unlike the more comedic belly laughs of today's cerebral funny stuff, Simon's movie has a more genuine cultural flavor that seamlessly enhances the ethnic ambiance and underlying nature of the film. The voice over blends in well with the mental dialogue that ordinary people often talk to themselves about. What is striking about this movie is its rhythm from friendly, how are you, get acquainted flow transitioning to the more intimate harshness of Jewish sternness of cold harsh personality derived from the likely bitter survival mode that many Jewish families suffered through during World War II. But Simon taps into the dysfunctional aftermath and subsequent emotional suffering of their offspring so well on display in this movie. What this movie accomplishes is a blend of comedy and drama in a manner that is both artistically well thought out but at the same time creating an environment and narrative that captures an audience's attention while all the while offering a constant running commentary underneath.

Unlike such over the top comedic characters as Sandra Bullock in All Above Steve (2009), the characters of Simon's play are more real, taking the Jewish character and their own internal humor as his opening to the family dynamics of comedy. Unlike an usual ironic plot twist as Ricky Gervais's character contending with ghosts in Ghost Town (2008), or the unusual setting of irony used with Tropic Thunder (2008) where a group of actors finding themselves in a real war, or where men play as women in Connie and Carla (2004), Simon's movie offers up a more authentic flavor of family life and the psychological turmoil surrounding life experiences. Another ethnically layered movie with a rich comedic blend of narrative and plot outline might be Greek themed My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), the disability-themed Lars and the Real Girl (2007), or the beauty competition for little girls concept of Little Miss Sunshine (2006), the Nanny Diaries (2007) with Scarlett Johansson, or the more recent gold standard Silver Lining Playbook (2012). While not as complex and more difficult balance as in the more darker comedy-drama in Death to Smoochy (2002) with Robin Williams, Lost in Yonkers surprisingly incorporates some of the dramatic intensity as approaching the emotive fulfillment as found in more serious dramas as in Margot at the Wedding (2007) or The Human Stain (2003).
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9/10
The performance of Mercedes Ruehl was delightful and moving. The academy did themselves a disservice by not nominating her.
richard-crane-343-24357924 January 2015
A Wonderful look back to 1930's New York and a dysfunctional family where the two young sons are the only ones who are normal. The casting was perfect and the actors, especially Mercedes Ruehl were more than equal to the task. Richard Dreyfuss again proved his versatility by playing a character much older than he really was. This is the story of Bella, who is slightly retarded, and her efforts to become a normal woman. She is hindered by her domineering mother and the feeling of responsibility to her her and her two little cousins. Her father passed away earlier and the house is full of her mother's feelings of bitterness. The story shows Bella's attempts to escape from her feelings of obligation to family and friends, and become a real woman.
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3 parts
dbishfan1 June 2002
Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers is the kind of story that can only be explained in three parts: One part comedy, one part drama and one part miscellaneous. That mix is fantastic. Please see this movie; words cannot really describe it's constantly shifting plot.
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9/10
Found In The Multiplex - One Gem
writers_reign5 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Let me begin by staing that Neil Simon's New York-Jewish humor is right down the rue of this English goy and I've seen a good ninety-five per cent of everything he's written on both stage and screen including Original Screenplays like The Out Of Towners. I also saw Lost In Yonkers in England though alas, Maureen Lipman was a pathetic substitute for Mercedes Ruehl who deserved ten Best Actress Oscars let alone being disgracefully overlooked. The early Simon - Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot In The Park - was almost pure comedy, one one-liner after another but around the time of Chapter Two, with a major tragedy in his own life, he began injecting much more drama into his work and Lost In Yonkers a supreme example of comedy drama. Mercedes Ruehl is beyond brilliance while Irene Worth is merely brilliant and with class acts like this Louie could have been played by Jonathan Winters and still not spoiled it. A great, great movie.
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10/10
Mike Damus is a stand-out performer. He should be in more films.
TeEn AnGeL19 June 2001
Lost in Yonkers was exceptionally well done. I did have a fairly high expectation of it because Mike Damus was in it....and Richard Dreyfuss also...but I mainly borrowed this movie from the store because of Mike. This film was well acted, well directed and the soundtrack was just pure brilliance! i recommend if you do not want to watch the film, you at least listen to the soundtrack...

My only complaint with this movie was that Mike played such a small and relatively insignificant role - i do realise it was based on the play by Neil Simons, but nonetheless Mike deserves better!

In general, I very much enjoyed what I saw as it was not violent, didn't have any cocky humour, or bad acting. I particularly enjoyed Aunt Gertie's speech impediment because Susan Merson who played her pulled it off extremely well-another brilliant performance!

My question to you is, can Mike Damus ever make a bad film? The answer is no. No he can't.
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3/10
Worse than a Play
jacksweeten7 January 2018
I actually was in an on stage production of this. I can say with utmost certainty that a play was better than a movie with RICHARD DREYFUSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He was the only competent actor. Otherwise, the acting s atrocious. The kid actors were okay, and better than most. Merchedes Rheul is just terrible. I don't think she should have been added to the cast in any way. This is a true disgrace towards Neil Simon. Of course, Mr. Simon delivered in the sense of storytelling. This film was just a letdown.
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4/10
Not a disaster, but as close as Simon gets.
matthewssilverhammer14 September 2018
The only things really going for this schmaltzy and emotionally unearned screen adaptation are Simon's dialogue and some (in a vacuum) strong characters, especially the grandma, aunt and younger brother. Otherwise, director Coolidge just can't seem to really grasp the unique tone of the story. Too heavy when it should be light (inter-family relationships), and too light when it should be heavy (the mafia threat). Worst of all, Dreyfuss is wasted and horribly miscast.
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Lost in Yonkers
Coxer9921 April 1999
Decent film adaptation of the multi award winner from author Simon. Ruehl and Worth beautifully reprise their Tony Award winning roles, while Dreyfuss overacts as Uncle Louie. Martha Coolidge's direction is adequate as are the rest of the performances. The film, and the play, suffers from lack of depth and precision within the script. I think we've seen enough of Neil Simon's upbringing!
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