Based on a Neil Simon play of the same name, The Prisoner of Second Avenue is a bitterly satirical exploration of the myriad ways the modern world can drive people insane
Mel Edison (Jack Lemmon) and his wife Edna (Anne Bancroft) live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York.
During a heatwave that’s compounded by a garbage strike and periodic power outages, Mel spirals toward a nervous breakdown triggered by hassles with a broken toilet, noisy neighbours, the loss of the job he’s held for 22 years, the burglary of his apartment, and other traumas.
Tormented by his successful suburban brother, Harry (Gene Saks) and emotionally devastated by his inability to find work, Mel is the true embodiment of the mid-life crisis as he slips towards a nervous breakdown in slow, excruciatingly hilarious stages.
When Mel finally decides to fight back at the unjust universe, he manages to pick the wrong target, mistaking a young man (Sylvester Stallone in an early film role) for a mugger and then chasing the poor guy through Central Park and taking his wallet, which Mel believes to be his own.
Upon discovering his mistake, Mel reports to Edna, “My God, I mugged a kid.” Proving she’s reached her limit, as well, she replies, “How much did we get?”
Joe the doorman
M. Emmet Walsh
F. Murray Abraham
Youth in Park