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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio - DVD Review

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</script></div>{/googleAds}The 1950s and early1960s marked the beginning of the age of consumerism in America. Many companies began to capitalize on the economic boom that followed WWII by developing elaborate marketing and advertising campaigns to hock their products. Most popular among these campaigns were the contests and sweepstakes offered by companies that made everything from soaps to soda pops to deodorants. But ironically, one woman shunned the overtly consumeristic nature of these contests and used her winnings as a means of providing for her family.

Adapted to the big screen by Writer/director Jane Anderson, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio comes from the pages of Terry Ryan's memoir of the same name. Published in 2001, Terry's book tells the story of her mother, Evelyn Ryan, a wife to an abusive drunk, Kelly (Woody Harrelson), and stay at home mom of 10 children who entered her poems, jingles and rhymes in contests from such companies as Western Auto, Dr. Pepper and General Electric. Millions of people entered these contests, including members of jingle writing clubs, but it was Evelyn's pure writing talents and her unflinching optimism that allowed her to win so many. Because her husband was a drinker who blew his weekly earnings on beer and liquor, Evelyn saw her winnings as an important supplement to the family's income.

The weight of the entire movie rests on the shoulders of Julianne Moore as Evelyn Ryan. And she delivers with a huge performance. Evelyn was an extremely optimistic person who, in the face of the constant trials and tribulations of raising 10 children, was always able to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty. She never took anything for granted, and to her, life itself was a gift. Moore displays a soulful, beaming smile that lovingly masks her character's many layers. On the surface Evelyn is a bright, perky housewife, but we know that deep down inside, she regrets the opportunities she wasn't able to realize. We feel for Evelyn's daily struggles, but even in the face of losing her home, her positive outlook, and take-it-day-by-day attitude never let us feel sorry for her. She's a survivor and I'm certain we all could have learned something about life from being around her. Evelyn died in 1998 at the age of 85.

In the hands of a different director, this touching film could have come off as a Ryan family vanity project or even worse, as dull and uninteresting. But Anderson keeps things quirky and stylish by breaking the third wall with little bits of humorous narration and introspection. Moore steps into the frame with explanations of the intricacies of the contests and delivers little nuggets of insight into her character's struggles to keep her family whole. Flashy period graphics and miniaturized 50's style jingle singers playfully dart across the screen as graphic aids for Moore's narration. Visually, the film is a delicious playground of kitschy nostalgia; emotionally, it's a powerful and resonant statement about overcoming obstacles.

As you leave the theater, you'll find yourself enlightened, refreshed and inspired. It's a chick flick with all the emotional things that make it a chick flick. But unlike most, it doesn't beat you over the head with messages of how horrible men are and how women must revolt to find themselves. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Evelyn Ryan was a powerful woman because of her devotion to her family.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary:
o 1. with actress Julianne Moore
o 2. with director Jane Anderson
* Still Gallery

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase packaging.


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