The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio Reviews

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August 27, 2015
Ever noticed that Woody Harrelson is great at playing a jerk? Me too. Anyway, though this movie starts off sort of clunky, once it gets going, you're hooked. It's a great story of faithfulness and determination, even in the face of long odds.
August 13, 2015
Moore's performance makes this movie relevant but the story has it's perks too.
July 21, 2015
"The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" has one of the clunkiest names but one of the most fascinating true stories. If the story of Evelyn Ryan was fictional, it would seem a bit mundane. But as soon as the words "based on a true story" appear, this becomes a heroic tale of an anything-but-mundane housewife. I expected to half-watch this film as I did work but I was immediately taken by its unique style. It feels so 50's, from the video slideshow flashback to the jingle singers mingling with the real world. The style is complimented by excellent performances by Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. Moore's layered performance expresses her disappointment with her husband while maintaining a stiff upper lip to hold her family together. Her face does not always reflect her feelings, and yet we know. Woody does the opposite with dynamic acting that brings a true sense of intimidation to his character while still breaking to show his insecurity. The most wild thing is the unconditional love of Evelyn. In most movies, she would have left Kelly or had him arrested, but in real life she was able to immediately forgive his abusive and irresponsible actions because of the hardships that he faced. She redefines the word "selfless." The expertly written script builds the tension between the two of them, first starting with an almost comical scene and then slowly revealing the seriousness as the film progresses. I was also very impressed with Ellary Porterfield as Tuff but wanted to see more of Laura Dern. Since this script is based on the memoir of Tuff Ryan, I'm sure that the characters of Kelly and Ray the Milkman are negatively exaggerated, but that is part of what makes this story so fascinating. We get to see it from the perspective of an adult reflecting on her childhood. "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" is the complete package with a family that you can root for, a constant source of conflict, and an amazing story of perseverance that is enhanced by a revealing of the successes of this family's lineage.
July 17, 2015
Loved this movie....she uses power of now princples.... Just taking each problem as it comes, enjoying the present moment, forgiving the past, not worrying for the future..she is a saint, really, what a good mom...different moral values....reminded me of gram a bit. Now this would be considered child endangerment/ abuse to stay in her marriage.
May 13, 2015
This is a very enjoyable movie about a remarkable woman and the power of forgiveness.
½ May 12, 2015
Original story, really good acting.
May 10, 2015
The few parts that were well written make up for the parts that weren't.
May 8, 2015
This was a fabulous portrayal of a genuine woman and her abusive husband in a unique main character narrative. Evelyn isn't some fifties magazine character but a real woman facing real issues with neighbors, family, a priest, and the public expecting her to live a magazine character life. The story is subtle within the dramedy but the humor doesn't destroy the pace. I really enjoyed all the the characters. From an experienced perspective of a household with domestic violence, I found this story speaking with authentic voice. Enjoyable.
½ January 28, 2015
A delightful film with wonderful performances from Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. The costumes, production design, score, hair and make up all add to the fun style of the movie. It really is a roller coaster of tone when it will be very joyful then very dark and sometimes that faulted the movie but overall it is a pure joy to watch and this would make a perfect stage play
½ October 28, 2014
A interesting story about a housewife who's family depends on her winnings.
½ September 17, 2014
While flawed, I feel that Julianne Moore truly made it worth watching.
July 16, 2014
Sweet and such a good story. Perfect for family.
½ March 6, 2014
I can't remember who recommended this movie to me but, thanks! What an amazing mother. And so smart.
August 18, 2013
This Mom is an inspiration in determination and positive thinking
Super Reviewer
½ July 20, 2013
After seeing this film, I knew it had to be a true story, and sure enough it was. The story of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a terrific one, that you just couldn't make up. The book was written by one of a families ten children, about their mother and how she raised their entire family by winning sweepstakes, which were extremely popular in the 50's and 60's. The Ryan family was your typical suburban family, Kelly (Woody Harrelson) worked in a mill and spends most of his paycheck on alcohol. That leaves Evelyn (Julianna Moore) to raise 10 kids on almost no money. Evelyn was in advertising before she became a housewife and had a knack for writing slogans and jingles. As a result of her circumstances, she entered every contest she could find and surprisingly won a large number of them, despite the odds. She won the house they live in, as well as most of the appliances, and even a few cars they sold. The story was truly fantastic and a wonderful tribute to a woman, who in some ways could be considered a modern day working mother. Evelyn was played by Julianna Moore, who gives the performance of her life. Once again, an independent film is overlooked by the Academy, but had this been a major release, there is no doubt in my mind that Moore would have won the Oscar, she is really that good. A good portion of the story is focused on this extraordinary woman, but we do meet her husband and we see her kids at various ages and walks of live. It seems like a movie that could quickly fizzle out, but life is never slow or boring in the Kelly household. On a side note, the author of the book, Evelyn's oldest daughter really made a name for herself with this book and made a cameo at the end of the film. Unfortunately, her career was short lived, as she passed away shortly after the films release. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is the kind of tribute we'd all love to give our parents, but most of our parents didn't do the extraordinary things Evelyn Ryan did. It's a heartwarming story that shows no matter how bad things get, there is always a way, and that's a message we can all relate to.
½ June 29, 2013
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is an overall tripe, mediocre movie with moments of brilliance and great performances by its leads, Julliane Moore and Woody Harrelson. This movie takes place during the 1950s and is about a housewife named Evelyn Ryan trying to hold her family of ten children and a husband together by winning entries in contests. First off, Julianne Moore as Evelyn Ryan, the mother who's support her family, is fantastic, as well as Woody Harrelson as Kelly Ryan, the husband. They really elevate this movie from an utter waste of time. I also really liked the setting of this movie, and they portrayed it well as to how it affected their family's struggles.

Now, the mediocre part of this movie- it really offers nothing new at all and is very forgettable, and feels dull and bland. It lacks real drama and emotion, despite the fact that some parts of the movie were fairly powerful. It's a schmaltzy, formulaic movie with a very predictable ending. It's an interesting story, but hits too many sentimental and repetitive bumps along the way, and progressively gets worse until the ending. The ending is where the movie almost dismantles completely because it just felt terribly structured and was way too foreseeable. I could see why people would like this movie- however, it failed to resonate with me. I realize that the story in this movie is actually a true one, which is great for Evelyn Ryan and her family, but I don't think that it conveyed enough power to make me really care about the struggles that the Evelyn Ryan in this movie was facing. It's not any of the actors fault- rather, its the scripts fault. As I said, this movie does have its moments of great emotion, such as a few scenes involving Kelly and Evelyn. However, the mediocre outweighs the good here, which is unfortunate because this movie had lots of potential. Overall, its not terrible by any means, but it failed to resonate with me, and wasn't a very memorable film either. I would give this movie a try, still, because perhaps you can find some emotion in what I thought was a movie that lacked enough substance.
May 5, 2013
great movie. how can a true story be bad? julianne and woody were excellent! it represented what most people's parents and grandparents dealt with. disagree completely with critics and audience.
Super Reviewer
½ May 1, 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.
½ April 28, 2013
Again I don't agree with the critics. I liked this movie about an outstanding woman who faced the challenges and heartbreak of raising twelve children with an erratic and sometimes violent, but always irresponsible husband by using her natural talents, warm affections and a very philosophical attitude. Being born in 1950 myself, the look of this film made be feel right at home. I'm glad I saw it.
½ March 4, 2013
True stories don't always make excellent films.
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