USA Today - 09/30/2005
"Moore is exceptional as Evelyn Ryan, one of the more stalwart and inspiring characters in recent movies. Her portrayal has depth, nuance, humor, warmth and, above all, intelligence."
New York Times - 10/28/2005
"Jane Anderson wrote and directed this tribute in a wonderfully zany, off-center style."
Julianne Moore returns to FAR FROM HEAVEN territory in THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO, which springs from the pages of Terry Ryan's memoir of the same name. Playing 1950s housewife Evelyn Ryan, who struggles to raise 10 kids while dealing with an alcoholic husband, Moore brings director Jane Anderson's film to life with another moving performance to add to her résumé. Evelyn's husband, Kelly (Woody Harrelson), works at the local factory but has sunk the family into financial trouble with his dangerously boozy habits. Struggling with her husband's drinking and the stress of raising so many children, Evelyn tries her luck in some jingle-writing contests. Writing rhyming couplets for companies like Dr. Pepper and Maidenform bras, the beleaguered housewife is surprisingly successful, and manages to tip the family's finances back into good health. Anderson peppers the action with short direct-to-camera monologues from Evelyn, which help to explain the idiosyncrasies of the competitions and also highlight her steely determination to pull her family through the hard times. But Kelly can't accept his wife's position as the major breadwinner of the family, and his violent, alcohol-fueled outbursts put an enormous strain on their relationship.
Moore shines throughout the movie, giving a convincing performance as a strong woman who always puts her family's happiness before her own. As a first feature film, THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO, is a strong debut from Jane Anderson, who gained Emmy nominations for her HBO show NORMAL, which she wrote and directed; she also wrote the screenplay for this movie, faithfully molding Terry Ryan's words into a film that tugs heavily at the heart strings.
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