Evelyn (Julianne Moore – Freedomland, Boogie Nights) and Kelly Ryan (Woody Harrelson – North Country, Anger Management) live in Defiance, Ohio in 1956 and have 10 kids. Kelly is a machinist and spends much of his salary on alcohol. In order to feed her kids and pay the mortgage, Evelyn enters many jingle contests and wins a lot of them. She is contacted by Dortha Schaefer (Laura Dern – I Am Sam, Jurassic Park III), who also enters many jingle contests, and meets many women who are contest winners. Unfortunately, her winnings make Kelly feel like less of a man and this causes him to drink even more. Despite this trying existence Evelyn manages to maintain a sunny disposition much to the puzzlement of Kelly and her daughter Tuff (Ellary Porterfield – first feature film). Unbeknownst to Evelyn, Kelly takes out a second mortgage on the house and spends all the money. The second mortgage is coming due and it seems as if the Ryans will lose their house.
It is amazing how film can transport us to different ages throughout history. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio really gives the viewer an insight into what it must have been like in middle America in the 1950s and how many housewives must have dealt with their lots in life. Even though it is a film that we have all seen before (the drunken father and the mother trying to feed a large family by any means necessary) it distinguishes itself by not making Woody Harrelson's character a one-dimensional one. He is not just a violent, mean, drunk; he is very human with many flaws. These well-written characters (the film is based on a true story written by Terry Ryan about her upbringing) are done justice onscreen by the always fabulous Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. Julianne Moore succeeds in bringing a humanity to the character that is really beyond many other actresses. Director Jane Anderson (screenwriter for How to Make an American Quilt and It Could Happen to You) has constructed a touching film which is not overly sentimental and has been injected with many cool cinematographic touches. The film leaves you wanting to know more about the Ryans and their lives, which is a sign of a good film. This is not the type of film which many people go to the theatre to see, so support this 'small' film by renting or buying it.
-Previews for Prime and Pride and Prejudice.