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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio - Movie Review and Free SHowing

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005) stars Julianne Moore as the indefatigable mother of 10 and witty writer Evelyn Ryan. 

I got to learn about the Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio (2002) on one of my frequent trips to the second-hand bookstore. I love reading about women who made it through the odds and survived as winners. And Evelyn Ryan was such a compelling character—humorous and practical, tough but smiling, gentle but with a steely determination to keep ends meeting despite the struggles of raising 10 kids, living with an alcoholic husband, and bouts with poverty and despair. Yes, she was a real life wonder woman who met adversities with her pen, notebook, boxes upon boxes of product wrappers, and the gift of crafting humorous and witty lines in “25 words or less.”


Hers was a story of a mother looking for ways to augment her husband's already insufficient income by joining the jingle-writing craze, that hit America after World War II and went through until the early 1960s, when games of luck, or sweepstakes, took the place of this unique competition. What a writer Evelyn was because her winnings, ranging from $1 cash prize she won from poetry writing contests to thousand-dollar cash prize, grocery shopping sprees, and free travel, all did well for her family and came just in time to save them from impending trouble.

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Movie Review

The film adaptation was equally touching, as was the memoir of Ryan's daughter, Teri. The film stars on of the best actresses of her generation, four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, with a strong supporting characters led by Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern.

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, said that Moore's role “is like the small-town cousin of Cathy, the Connecticut housewife she played in Far from Heaven (2003). Cathy was trapped in a sterile marriage, and a world where men made all the decisions and women were locked in supporting roles. Judging by the body count around her dinner table in Ohio, Evelyn Ryan's marriage is not sterile, but it is a trap.”

Furthermore, Egbert applauded the film for avoiding “obvious sentiment and predictable emotion and shows this woman somehow holding it together year after year, entering goofy contests that for her family mean life and death.”

Meanwhile, Chris Kaltenbach of Baltimore Sun was not as enthusiastic as Egbert, commenting that “Anderson sees her subject as little more than a game-show contestant. One suspects the real Evelyn Ryan deserved far better.”

Bill Muller of Arizona Republic however was ecstatic when he said that the film showcased both Moore's and Harrelson's acting best, saying, “Rarely do you have a movie in which both lead actors give Oscar-worthy performances, but Defiance, Ohio is one.”

Carrey Rickey of Philadelphia Inquirer noted that one thing that “distinguishes Anderson's work is her obvious empathy with all of her characters, including Kelly Ryan, whom she does not demonize,” while Wesley Morris of Boston Globe critiqued that the film's story has nothing that much, “it the characterization of a family's life is vivid and rich.”

All in all, movie aggregator Rotten Tomato rated The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with 57% approval rating.


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