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Noteworthy for Julianne Moore's performance, Prize Winner is nonetheless a largely indistinct and tentative film that fails to convey the true power of its bittersweet tale. Read critic reviews

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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio Photos

Movie Info

Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) suffers in her marriage to Kelly (Woody Harrelson), a slovenly alcoholic whose only consistent quality is his utter lack of respect for her. As Evelyn struggles to make ends meet and care for their 10 children, she begins to turn to contests as a source of entertainment and much-needed income. To the amazement of her friends and family, Evelyn's quick wit leads her to pen prizewinning amateur jingles and one-liners for products all across the spectrum.

Cast & Crew

Woody Harrelson
Leo "Kelly" Ryan
Laura Dern
Dortha Schaefer
Ellary Porterfield
Tuff Ryan at 13, 16 & 18 yrs
Simon Reynolds
Ray the Milkman
Jordan Todosey
Tuff Ryan at 9 yrs
Frank Chiesurin
Freddy Canon
Nora Dunn
Girl Group Member
Terry Ryan
Writer (Book)
Jane Anderson
Writer (Screenplay)
Marty P. Ewing
Executive Producer
John Frizzell
Original Music
Jonathan Freeman
Cinematographer
Robert Dalva
Film Editor
Show all Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

All Critics (84) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (34)

Audience Reviews for The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

  • May 01, 2013
    A rather forgotten film at the box office, and in the annals of history, this adaptation from the book of the same name features some heart tugging moments but overall comes off as tripe. At the box office this film didn't make back all that much from its original budget and it's easy to figure out why when it comes to the story. This film looks at a mother who had to help her home of ten children with her own brilliant mind. The prize winner in the title is alluding to the fact that main character Evelyn Ryan (Moore) spent the bulk of her life winning contests put out by companies in the fifties in order to keep her family from collapsing into ruin thanks to her husband's alcoholic tendencies. The film is intriguing not only for the character's quick mind at thinking up jingles, limericks, and general rhymes for contests, but also for educating the current generation about the ad campaigns of companies in the fifties and the role of the housewife at the time of baby boomers. The reason this doesn't evolve into an Oscar worthy film or even a memorable one, is simply because the film lacks any true drama. Yes, her husband is a blight to the family by drinking away his paycheck and leaving his wife to support them on pure luck, but that doesn't always pay off plot wise. Harrelson is great in the role, but most of the time he comes off as jealous more than anything, and at his patient and intelligent wife at that, who has little control over her own life let alone her immense family. His petty betrayals only make him a victim along with the rest of them, and without any adversity or true villain to the story it becomes one of survival. Again, that would be fine, if there wasn't a climactic ending that the entire film hangs its hat on, and it's obvious what's going to happen, in as formulaic and clichéd an ending as ever. This film is interesting and does feature some great information, but does not correctly build to its conclusion, and doesn't resonate for a reason.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2011
    A housewife keeps her family from sinking into bankruptcy by winning ad-writing contests. The main plot line of this film, a productive and almost optimistic response to fifties patriarchal oppression, becomes obvious early on. But Evelyn Ryan's bright-eyed responses to her husband's insecure harangues make it hard to sympathize with her. How long can we scream, "Leave the bastard" at the screen until we give up on her plight? But just when it gets to be oppressive, she says, "Your job is not to make me happy, but to stay away from me when I am." Could there be a more heart-breaking thing for a wife to say to her husband? Julianne Moore's performance was, of course, awful, and she shares the blame with the script for making Evelyn a tiring character. Woody Harrelson doesn't rise to the level of being a malevolent force, but his character has nuances, moments of compassion mixed with his fits of outrage. Overall, I thought there was some things to like about <i>The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio</i> - it's an interesting story that has flashes of brillance - but Moore's performance and some structural problems make it ultimately a disappointment.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jul 10, 2011
    What an adorable family story! Well told, beautiful costumes and sets, and incredible acting. This was a true gem among the crappy movies made these days. A refreshing change. Very enjoyable. Go back to family values and learn some lessons while being entertained. :-)
    Dannielle A Super Reviewer
  • Jul 01, 2011
    The prize Winner of defiance, Ohio Is about Dysfunctional family trying to make ends meet. The father is abusive and has a drink problem that laeve the family with out money. The mother enters contests to money to make end meet. Will the family be able to staying one place or will the have to move? Pros Good acting and plot. Can be funny at times. Cons Could be slow at times. i
    erika b Super Reviewer

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