Plot: Joyce Mitchell (Penelope Ann Miller) works at a prison, supervising a work program that produces uniforms and gives the prisoners some constructive efforts to engage in. At home, she is stuck in a boring, passionless marriage and escapes into romance audio novels, which she listens to loudly enough to drown out whatever her husband talks about. In her workroom is David Sweat (Joe Anderson), a convicted killer facing life in prison, who wants to find an escape of his own and plots with his fellow inmate Richard Matt (Myk Watford), also a violent criminal. Sweat sees potential in Joyce, as it is clear that she desperate for attention and if the two can manipulate her just right, he thinks she might help them attempt an escape. He starts slow, gauging her reactions to his attention and soon realizes she is indeed likely to assist them, so he begins the process of breaking her down. Thrilled with the attention and excitement, Joyce is soon smuggling in items to help the prisoners, all the while fantasizing about what might be. But will she go the distance to ensure her new friends can reclaim their freedom and if so, how will this all work out for her?
Entertainment Value: Based on a true story that was national news, New York Prison Break is a brisk, humorous jaunt inside a woman’s journey to find attention, affection, and excitement. In truth, this is Joyce’s story and her descent into helping these violent men is an interesting one. Her desperate need to feel alive and wanted permeates the entire narrative, as she fantasizes about romance novel style encounters, overlooks red flags to pursue her needs, and finds herself in way over her head, all to feel that kind of connection she lacks. But she isn’t a lonely soul, as her husband seems an active part of her life, she is just tired of him and does whatever she can to focus on anything other than his conversations. This plays a recurring role in her story and most importantly, helps give us a satisfying conclusion. The movie pulls no punches though, as she is shown as a woman who goes overboard when shown a slight bit of attention and her need for excitement overpowers her common sense at every turn. Penelope Ann Miller has the lead and is terrific here, playing the role with great comedic skill and her evolution into a wild woman is quite fun to watch. I’m sure some won’t appreciate the dark humor injected into the story here, but it adds entertainment and otherwise most of the details seem fairly accurate. So if you like Lifetime style movies with dysfunction, drama, and spurned love, give this one a chance.
No nakedness. Joyce is dazzled when she touches the junk of her prison beaus, but of course, nothing is shown. She also takes some erotic selfies at one point, which adds some quirky humor to the mix. She also listens to erotic novels and there’s some dirty talk at times, but nothing too graphic. The opening scene has some violence, such as gun shots, a man being run over by a car, an object rammed into someone’s ear, and an arm being carved off by a hacksaw. While not graphic and obscured in darkness, I still think it deserves a point, since it isn’t often we get someone being dismembered alive in a Lifetime movie. The dialogue is often humorous in tone, from Joyce’s delusions to her husband’s droning on. We also have some prison yard lingo, tough guy talk, and some erotic warblings, so some decent stuff here. Miller’s performance yields the most memorable moments, as she teeters on the brink of sanity once she gets drunk with the attention. As far as craziness, Miller’s performance and the general portrayal of Joyce is the highlight, as she goes down a wild rabbit hole and her behavior just spins into reckless chaos at times. Aside from those elements and the dark comedic edge, this one sticks to the Lifetime formula in most ways.
Overall Insanity: 3/10