Mel Edison (Jack Lemmon) has just lost his job after many years and now has to cope with being unemployed at middle age, all the while dealing with an intense summer heat wave and a prolonged garbage strike, which just exacerbates Edison's plight to no end. As if that wasn’t enough, he and his wife Edna (Anne Bancroft) also have to deal with noisy neighbors, loud sounds emanating from the Manhattan streets up to their apartment and finally a robbery of their apartment during broad daylight in which Mel actually holds the door for the robbers carrying his TV. Mel eventually suffers a nervous breakdown from the whole affair, and it is up to the loving care of his brother Harry (Gene Saks), his sisters Pauline (Elizabeth Wilson) and Pearl (Florence Stanley), and Edna to bring Mel back to a firm reality.

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“The Prisoner of Second Avenue” is based on the Neil Simon play that ran on Broadway from 1971 to 1973 before being made into this 1975 feature film. It starred Peter Falk as Mel and Lee Grant as Edna.

Jack Lemmon, having been in two previous Neil Simon hits, 1968 “The Odd Couple” with Walter Matthau and 1970 “The Out of Towners” with Sandy Dennis (see my review on “The Out of Towners”), shines again in this bittersweet tale. Lemmon plays Mel with such heart, that you almost feel guilty laughing at the trials and tribulations that man is going through. He skillfully manages to convey the angst of a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, while still finding the humor in his life.

Anne Bancroft dazzles as Edna, the loving wife who must hold it all together to help her husband keep it together. Her flawless performance leaves you wanting more about her, and less about the troubles Mel is encountering.

I think the best thing about the movie is the pairing of Bancroft and Lemmon. Each actor in his or her own right is flawless. But together, they are a gifted and exceptional team. At the end of the movie, we know that this couple has won the war; not only over New York, but also the losing of the job, the neighbors and even the robbery. And we know that they are going to be all right, not because he found a new job, but because they survived it all together. And through it all, they prevailed!

Neil Simon wrote the quintessential comedy; the kind of comedy that has you laughing one minute and crying the next. In my opinion, Neil Simon is a genius screenwriter that captures who we are at all times. This is one movie that will leave a lump in your throat and a smile on your face.