The Prisoner of Second Avenue

Watch The Prisoner of Second Avenue

"...and you think you've got problems."
  • PG
  • 1974
  • 1 hr 38 min
  • 6.7  (3,830)

In the 1975 film The Prisoner of Second Avenue, directed by Melvin Frank and based on Neil Simon's play, Jack Lemmon stars as Mel Edison, a middle-aged executive who suddenly loses his job and spirals into a nervous breakdown. Anne Bancroft co-stars as his long-suffering wife, Edna, who tries to hold their fraying lives together amidst mounting bills, noisy neighbors, and a general sense of urban malaise.

The film takes place in New York City in the early 1970s, a time of economic and social turmoil in America's largest metropolis. As Mel struggles to find work and cope with his anxiety, he becomes increasingly paranoid, prone to outbursts of rage and despair that terrorize Edna and alienate their friends and family. Gene Saks plays Harry, Edna's cheerful and supportive brother, who tries to help Mel and Edna through their crisis but finds himself at a loss as their situation worsens.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue is a dark comedy that touches on themes of mental illness, unemployment, urban decay, and the breakdown of traditional gender roles in American society. It is a poignant and sometimes uncomfortable examination of a couple's struggle to maintain their dignity and sanity in the face of overwhelming adversity. The film is made all the more powerful by its superb cast, particularly Lemmon, who delivers one of his most complex and nuanced performances as the tormented Mel.

Throughout the film, we see Mel and Edna move through a series of escalating crises, from a broken air conditioner to a mugging to a power outage that leaves them stranded in their apartment building's darkened stairwell. These incidents are played for laughs, but they also expose the fragility of the couple's existence and underscore the absurdity of their circumstances. As Mel and Edna bicker and fight over trivial matters, we sense the deep love and affection that underlies their relationship, even as it frays and threatens to unravel.

Ultimately, The Prisoner of Second Avenue is a story about survival and resilience in the face of hardship. It shows us how even the most stable and successful among us can be brought low by circumstances beyond their control, and how the human spirit can endure even the darkest of times. With its witty dialogue, pitch-perfect performances, and nuanced exploration of contemporary urban life, it is a film that still resonates today, nearly fifty years after its initial release.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue is a 1974 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 38 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.7.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 38 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.7  (3,830)