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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005) online

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005) online
Original Title :
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Genre :
Movie / Biography / Drama
Year :
Directror :
Jane Anderson
Cast :
Julianne Moore,Woody Harrelson,Laura Dern
Writer :
Terry Ryan,Jane Anderson
Type :
Time :
1h 39min
Rating :

In order to support her ten children, Evelyn Ryan enters a commercial jingle-writing contest.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005) online

Kelly and Evelyn Ryan live in Defiance, Ohio with their 10 children. At first glance their life seems idyllic; they call each other "Mother" and "Father" and seem to dote on the kids. But Kelly was a garage-band crooner whose voice was ruined in an auto accident. He's resigned to a dead-end factory job that barely pays the bills, and is given to fits of alcohol-induced rage

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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a 2005 American biographical film written and directed by Jane Anderson. The film received a limited release on October 14, 2005. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is based on the true story of housewife Evelyn Ryan, who helped support her husband, Kelly, and their 10 children by winning jingle-writing contests

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You are watching the movie The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio produced in USA belongs in Category Drama with duration 99 Min, broadcast at 123Movie.

Kelly and Evelyn Ryan live in Defiance, Ohio with their 10 children. At first glance their life seems idyllic; they call each other "Mother" and "Father" and seem to dote on the kids. But Kelly was a garage-band crooner whose voice was ruined in an auto accident. He's resigned to a dead-end factory job that barely pays the bills, and is given to fits of alcohol-induced rage. Evelyn, a stay-at-home wife and mother, deals with this abuse by appealing to her priest, who is no help at all. She deals with their poverty by entering the jingle contests that were the rage in the 50's and early 60's, even sending in multiple entries in the names of the children. She is very clever at it, winning more than her share of prizes, but her successes aren't enough to keep the wolf from the door. Further, they trigger Kelly's insecurities and he retreats deeper into the bottle, using food and mortgage money to support the habit. Can the loving, optimistic Evelyn hold the family together? Is she ...
Cast overview, first billed only:
Julianne Moore Julianne Moore - Evelyn Ryan
Woody Harrelson Woody Harrelson - Kelly Ryan
Laura Dern Laura Dern - Dortha Schaefer
Trevor Morgan Trevor Morgan - Bruce Ryan at 16 yrs
Ellary Porterfield Ellary Porterfield - Tuff Ryan at 13, 16 & 18 yrs
Simon Reynolds Simon Reynolds - Ray the Milkman
Monté Gagné Monté Gagné - Lea Anne Ryan at 17 yrs
Robert Clark Robert Clark - Dick Ryan at 16 yrs
Michael Seater Michael Seater - Bub Ryan at 15 yrs
Erik Knudsen Erik Knudsen - Rog Ryan at 13 yrs
Jake Scott Jake Scott - Bruce Ryan at 11 yrs
Jordan Todosey Jordan Todosey - Tuff Ryan at 9 yrs
Ryan Price Ryan Price - Mike Ryan at 6 yrs
Shae Norris Shae Norris - Barb Ryan at 4 yrs
Abigail Falle Abigail Falle - Betsy Ryan at 2 yrs

Some of the dresses worn by Julianne Moore in the film belonged to the real-life Evelyn Ryan. Her children had saved them and offered the use of them for the film.

Contrary to the movie, the real-life Evelyn Ryan and her son did get to take a trip to New York City, where they stayed at Waldorf-Astoria, saw the Broadway musical "The Music Man", dined at Sardi's, and appeared on a television show hosted by Merv Griffin as part of the "Name The Sandwich" contest prize.

The contest ads seen under the opening credits were taken from Evelyn Ryan's drawer. They were given to the filmmakers by her daughter Betty.

At the end of the film, several children are seen fading in and out of the picture, which shows the passing of several years. One of the young boys is Evelyn Ryan's grandson, who happened to be there that day.

In several scenes, the family is shown using bottled milk from Arps Jersey Farm Dairy. This business was founded in 1936 by George Arps, and still distributes many dairy products within a sixty-mile radius of Defiance, Ohio.

Outside scenes were all shot in Canada. Interior scenes were all shot on a soundstage.

In real-life, the singer who introduced the nameless "Name The Sandwich" jingle contest was Freddie Cannon, who performed the song on Bandstand (1952).

Laura Dern was pregnant during filming.

In the grocery store scene, the bottom shelves behind Kelly (Woody Harrelson) are stocked with Ballreich's potato chips. These are made in Tiffin Ohio, nearly seventy miles east of Defiance. Ballreich's (pronounced ballright) started in Tiffin in 1920.

The decision to have Evelyn (Julianne Moore) talk directly to camera was inspired by television commercials from the 1950s, which used that technique frequently.

Robert Zemeckis ultimately decided not to direct, because he couldn't bear the thought of working with so many children. (There were twenty involved in the production.) He stayed on as a Producer.

Never theatrically released in the United Kingdom.

The third time in three years that Julianne Moore played a 1950s housewife. The others being Timmarna (2002) and Far from Heaven (2002).

Robert Zemeckis bought the property with an eye on directing it.

Laura Dern and Julianne Moore appeared in the Jurassic Park film franchise. Dern played Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park (1993) and Jurassic Park III (2001) and Moore played Dr. Sarah Harding in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).

User reviews



I went into a screening of this film cold. I didn't know anything about it except that it starred Julianne Moore. I walked by a poster of the film on the way into the theater and was horrified, thinking it was going to be a chick flick.

Well, folks. When I go into a theater and I can't take my eyes off the screen and the movie goes by without me ever even checking my watch, I know I've seen a good movie.

Moore plays a woman with 10 children. Although her husband works as a machinist, she basically provides for the family by winning all sorts of contests for all kinds of big prizes, including big cash prizes. The woman is a master of winning these things. It's the one thing that's keeping her family together. She's definitely the hero and the one person everyone looks up to. Definitely an inspiration. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll stop at that, but I will say that Moore does a great job with her role.

Moore's husband in the movie, played by Woody Harrelson with emotional conviction and healthy dose of humanity, has a drinking problem and is a big source of tension inside the household. To the movie's credit, it doesn't paint the father as the typical one-note, evil, hateful,abusive, drunken father. There's a real character in there who loves his wife and kids and the movie does its best to portray him as fairly as possible despite his drinking problem and fits of rage.

The movie does bring out strong emotions from its audience, not quite a tear-jerker but close. It's not the sort of movie I would watch again and again because it's not my type of film, but I was glad for having seen it.

There's good acting, good pacing, a good story and possibly most important of all, it is told in an entertaining, gripping fashion. I wouldn't be surprised to find out if there is an Academy Award nomination in store for Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson.

At the end of the movie, there was a nice round of applause from the audience. I told one lady, "Wow, the two hours just went..." and I snapped my fingers. She said, "It just zipped by." I also heard several different people talking as I left the theater, "Did you like it?" "Yeah, it was great."

Go see it.


Contesting, a trend popular in the 1950's and 60's, is now all but forgotten. Women across the country used their wit and wordplay to win thousands of dollars by writing slogans for companies to promote their products. Julianne Moore stars in "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," as Evelyn Ryan, one such contester who uses her talents to keep her family fed despite their abject poverty. The film co-stars Woody Harrelson as Evelyn's husband Kelly Ryan, a man struggling with alcoholism and his ill-begotten fate as a factory worker. Unlike most, Evelyn is not just an occasional contest winner. Her knack for jingle writer provides for her family of twelve and her winning is proportional to her families needs. Throughout the course of the film, her role as breadwinner creates friction between she and her husband, which Evelyn (Moore) manages with incredible grace and constant optimism. Indeed, Moore is radiant in this role and perfectly cast. Harrelson's performance is equally engaging and his moments of depression and rage are the ideal compliment to Moore's steady courage. Oscar Nominee Laura Dern gives an notable performance as a member of the Affadaisies, a group of contesting mothers which Evelyn befriends. Dern is quirky and lovable, despite her very small role.

"Prize Winner" is adapted from a book of the same name, a real life account of Evelyn Ryan's life. The book is authored by Ryan's daughter Terry, who appears in the film and is also re-incarnated as her younger self in the character Tuff, played with strength by Ellary Porterfield who makes her feature film debut. Terry Ryan admits thats her book's "intent was to bring her mother back to life..." and certainly the film is also a vehicle for this. Thankfully, and unexpectedly, the movie does not suffer from over sentimentalization, thanks to brilliant script adaptation and direction on the part of Jane Anderson who, although lacking feature film experience, creates honest and captivating scenes that beautifully depict the Ryan's family life. Anderson is so expert at using symbols within the film to shape an audiences opinion of the characters, it is barely perceptible on the first viewing. The film is beautifully layered with symbols of motherhood and Catholicism, none of which are so obvious as to interfere with the lighthearted moments that make the film captivating. Anderson deftly transitions from the high points of the family's success to the terrible depths of their despair, capturing the audience as they share in the Ryan's joys and sorrows. Anderson's hard work in showing the families dynamic is most evident however in the cohesiveness of the Ryan children, all of whom look like a potential genetic pairing between Moore and Harrelson, and all of whom seemed enthusiastic about their work in the film. when asked what he learned from his more experienced co-stars, Robert Clarke, who plays the Ryan's oldest son Dick, mentioned Harrelson's multitude of approaches to a scene and Moore's constant professionalism. Ellory Potterfield (Tuff) commented that for her, working with Moore emphasized that "there is no acting, only reacting."

Writers, Directors, and child stars aside, it is Julianne Moore who brings the role of Evelyn to life and real humanity to the film. "She was an extraordinary woman who lived an ordinary life," Moore said of the real life Ryan at the movie's premier in Manhattan, "I think anyone can relate to trying to raise a family." The Prizewinner also bears the distinct mark of Producer Robert Zemeckis, and this film is moderately reminiscent of the Academy Award winning Zemeckis feature, "Forest Gump." As seen in Gump, Zemeckis is fond of the triumphant underdog, the everyman who perseveres thanks to their unique outlook. Zemeckis's initial reaction to the book was that "it seemed like an almost impossible but wonderful story...it was Evelyn's unshakable optimism and her love of life- the spiritual quality that allowed her to get through a life of hardships."

While Prizewinner is certainly not a new take on the BO-flick , the film relies heavily on it's more than capable cast and is a very sensitive portrayal of what must have been a remarkable woman. Although there are a points at which the storytelling is inefficient, and the exposition clunky, (at points it borders on downright awkward) I left the theater feeling as the though the movie could have told more stories of the Ryan's. I wanted to know more of their lives, and it was that fascination with the characters and events of the film that left me satisfied. The film is as pithy and poignant as one of Evelyn's jingles. Ultimately, Julianne Moore's stoic portrayal of Evelyn is so breathtaking and passionate that any audience member left unmoved should check their pulse.


This is one of those films lost in the "tracking" gutter of film marketing. In other words, it was not registering with the public so it got a very small release, and a very small audience. This is a shame because it is a "thinking person's Cheaper by the Dozen". It is a very fine movie that leaves you teared up at the end without a contrived plot. It is a true story with real people and they have real faults-yet they bring out the great and wonderful joys of life found by a woman in what most would consider a terrible circumstance.

If you see one film on sheer recommendation this year, this is the film to see. I own a movie theatre in Kansas City and I am playing the film. We had 7 for the matinée that I sat in on one Saturday afternoon-I emailed my customers on Monday and implored them to see this wonderful film. The next Saturday I had 116 for the matinée! It goes on and on and I hope that it will be one of those undiscovered gems for many people this year.


Julianne Moore was excellent in her role of Evelyn Ryan. The movie is inspirational and thought provoking for women everywhere. A great family story. Woody Harrelson was perfectly cast as her alcoholic husband. He portrayed his character Kelly Ryan with just enough intensity and a touch of humor to not take the spotlight away from Julianne's character. The movie was taken from the book by the same name. It was written by Terry Ryan the daughter of Evelyn Ryan. You can sense the genuine connection between each character. Definitely see this one you will not regret it. There is none of that over the top Hollywood glitz and effects just a great story and excellent acting.


Julianne Moore delivers a performance that captures the essence of the American homemaker in the 1950's. Her strength of character and her intelligence which she utilizes to help clothe and feed her family and keep them together virtually anchors the film.

The cast, writing and locations enhance THE PRIZE WINNER, and create an air of authenticity on the screen which moves the story forward. The children, in all their ages, help produce such a powerful film and form the foundation for Julianne Moore's motivation to provide and take care of her family.

Woody Harrelson is tremendous, and visually watching his anger and pain explode at times in the film, makes the audience take note of what it must have meant for a father to fail as a breadwinner in the 1950's.

THE PRIZE WINNER takes you back to that time in American history when the thought of winning and capturing "The American Dream" was one you could accomplish with hard work and talent. Julianne Moore makes the film all the more powerful with her portrayal of an American mother who will use her brains and determination to keep her family together. This film is one of the best to come along in 2005.


Don't mean to be too exuberant, BUT this was a heart-warming movie. Woody Harrelson is perfect in his pathetic role as loser. (Consider "Palmetto" and "The Money Train.") He is a winner at this type of role. Yet, in his portrayal of this father of a large family and the husband of a "stand by your man" and "look to the sunny side of life" woman. Woody manages to evoke our pity and makes us reach for understanding. A terrific supporting role.

Julianne Moore, the star of the movie, is the heroine, the mainstay who keeps everything together. Never been out of her little town of Defiance, Ohio(it's real, look it up!) until one of her daughters drives her to Goshen, Indiana. What an adventure! 100 miles from home. A different state, even though its hard to tell. This daughter is the story teller, the author of the best selling book that became a movie. She captures the 1950s, the silly excitement of writing a catchy commercial phrase, and the heroism and humor of a large family growing up in an era long gone.

It will not be a blockbuster. Opening night, which we wouldn't have missed, was in a large, mostly vacant theatre. Everyone clapped their approval at the close. I'm guessing that most of us had read the book before going.

If you're one of those who haven't read the book, don't worry about it. The movie is like a "To Kill A Mockingbird," in that it captures the book beautifully. (Doesn't deny you the pleasure that comes from reading the book; but let's you in on the wonder of it all.) I have a feeling this movie will fade from view within a few weeks. It may also be one of those movies that ends up in the Academy Awards for best screenplay, best supporting actor, best actress. So, don't let it slip away without YOUR seeing it tomorrow or next weekend. These are the kind of movies, and the caliber of performances that are so rewarding you really need to give it a look see. (Then, buy the book!)


This one came to me in the form of an Academy screener so it's eligible for Oscars - but I had never heard of it - nor read anything about it. So, it's a true sleeper. It's not perfect, but it's a really lovely movie nevertheless and deserves to be better known - certainly by Oscar voters who otherwise might give it a miss. If you are an Academy voter reading this please don't disregard this movie - once again it proves that so many of the smaller American films are the really good ones - small budgets give the director/writers a much better chance, and to have producers looking after you (like Steve Starkey & Robert Zemeckis in this case) is enormously helpful - but one fears that the distributors have decided to bury this gem.....come on guys, give it the chance it needs.


We were reluctant to see this film, but since it was the only choice at the time, we took a gamble that paid off in unexpected ways. First of all, this is a charming film that will win even skeptics, like myself. Director Jane Anderson's adaptation of Terry Ryan's book is a sunny portrayal of a woman who in spite of the monetary problems she suffered most of her life, was a winning individual because of the love she had for everyone, even for the husband, that on the surface, didn't appreciate her.

The story of Evelyn Ryan, an amazing woman from Ohio, comes to lie on the screen in the way the superb Julianne Moore portrays her. Evelyn was going places before she got married; she showed such promise, but her marriage to Kelly Ryan transforms her into a woman that has to perform wonders in order to keep her ten children, fed, clothed and educated. She did a wonderful job with all of them! Evelyn Ryan's talent for winning all kinds of prizes in those contests during the early age of television provides the family with a lot of material things and cash to keep them afloat. While Kelly is spending the money in liquor, Evelyn has to plead with the milkman to extend her credit. Having a strong will and a positive attitude toward life, Evelyn seems to typify that adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade".

Julianne Moore, one of our best actress is perfect as Evelyn Ryan. The film is the surprise it is because of the charisma Ms. Moore, under the direction of Ms. Anderson, gives to the film. Woody Harrelson, as Kelly, is fine as well in conveying the man who seems to have let life defeat him and will not do anything about it. Laura Dern is only seen in a a few scenes, but as always, she is a welcome presence in anything she plays. Ellary Porterfield plays Tuff as different stages of the girl's life.

This is a life affirming film and a tribute to Evelyn Ryan, a woman that in spite of the hard times always found solace in the great family she brought to the world.


I saw this Movie and it takes you back to the days before women really had domestic rights. It is not only about a strong and bright woman's struggle to keep her family fed and together it is about why woman started standing up and demanding fair treatment. This is a must see for all. The acting is exceptional. I liked the magic between Julianne Moore and Ellary Porterfield. She is one to watch. A star in the making. Woody was also very good. He played the simple, powerless husband to a tee. That had to be a very hard part to play. Lets get this movie out in full circulation so others can appreciate this excellent show.


I am probably prejudiced since I grew up in Defiance, and even played Little League with "baby" Dave, but this movie was terrific. I did in fact read the book first and I couldn't put that down. I was expecting the movie to not do it justice. The book certainly has more stories to tell than the movie has time for, but some of the best stories are still presented on the big screen for you to enjoy.

This lady was a legend. Her kids were exceptional though I remember them as a bit quiet but with the boys being incredible baseball players. Yes, the mother may initially seem too "polyantic", but after a while you realize she is still human, and simply has a love that was contagious to her kids and will be to the audience as well.

Woody is tremendous as the self loathing, but unintentionally funny father. And Julianne shows her great versatility in her character by evoking both empathy AND admiration for her strength and genuineness.

I am sure this movie will get sent straight to DVD and become unjustly overlooked (I blame the title a little bit for that). But, it's a good family movie, an intelligent movie, and will evoke a lot of feel good emotions which are the hallmarks of any really good movie. Go see it!


If you haven't read the book, at least go see the movie; that will inspire you to read the book! If any of you movie goers are avid readers, you know you are always a bit disappointed when Hollywood has its way with the written word. This neat little movie is no exception. I guess it is difficult to be unbiased since I live in Defiance, Ohio, and grew up with the Ryan kids. We love all the positive publicity that has come from this movie. There are many of us Defiance-ites that truly, absolutely, fanatically love this town. Then there are others that hate it; but I digress... This movie is one of those human interest, true-to-life, feel good movies. There's no "f" word every other line, no frontal nudity, no murders, etc. It's a movie that the family can enjoy together. And, as strange as it may seem in the movie when Evelyn miraculously wins a prize every time her family is in financial difficulty, it absolutely happened that way. I'm not sure I enjoyed the screenplay all that much, but I think most people will be tolerate it. The "asides" the character of Evelyn gives by talking directly to the audience, to me, were somewhat disconcerting, but I guess the director, Jane Anderson, decided to give more information through asides rather than have a narrator. The movie does tend to rely too heavily on the relationship between Evelyn and her husband, Kelly, because the book is 98 % about Evelyn, her love for her family, her talent for contesting, and Terry's (the author) love for her mother. Terry (Tuff)has contracted brain cancer and is not in the best of shape. Visit "The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio" website to learn more about Terry. Considering the content of this movie and the condition of the world today, I think most of you movie goers will enjoy a 98-minute "escape" from the real world as you are transported back to the '50s. Whether you lived in the '50s or wished you did, you will enjoy the flavor the movie gives to the era. And, one last thought, if you enjoyed the movie, and haven't read the book, you might want to run to your nearest library and pick up a copy. You might be disappointed in the movie, but you certainly won't be disappointed in the book. Long live Defiance!
Small Black

Small Black

I am an enormous fan of Julianne Moore (ok she should not have done that Hannibal movie, but whose perfect?) and added this flick to my Netflix queue based on that. What a delightful surprise this movie turned out to be.

The story of a struggling mother, her ten children and her boozy, irresponsible husband is a charming, memorable and moving film.

The family is broke and the kids keep coming and Dad isn't bringing home much, and has a strong taste for the drink, what options does a busy mother have? She can't get a job. Married women didn't work back then and with ten children, how could she? Evelyn Ryan, Julianne's character, finds a solution: contesting. Back in the 50's contests were all the rage and if you could write a jingle, had strong alliteration skills, you could be a winner! Never preachy and without a note of false 'triumph' the film is quietly elegant and packs a punch teaching us more about the role of women in that era, the Catholic Church, and dealing with adversity than a dozen Lifetime message movies of the weeks.

Where on earth did this movie hide? If I recall correctly it barely played and was limited to the Art House circuit. Where was the Miramax style campaign that could have easily turned this into a mainstream box office sensation? Was someone asleep at the wheel?


I felt the need to sign up and review a movie for the first time, just so there would be more written about this lovely little movie. This is a real gem that seems to have slipped through the net, which is a real pity. I had no expectations and knew nothing about it when I stumbled upon it, and I have been trying to persuade all of my friends to see it since then.

It's one of those rare family movies that really feels authentic. There's nothing hokey here, and no obvious, cheesy dialog. The little directorial flourishes are sweet and unobtrusive and flow naturally with the story, which although sometimes whimsically told, has a deeply moving center.

Julianne Moore deftly handles an extremely tricky role. She manages to convey the complexities in a character that on the surface, and in lesser hands, could read as drippy and one-dimensional. Instead as we see this woman's challenging life play out, we respect her more and more, and truly feel invested in what becomes of her remarkable spirit.

All in all, a wonderful surprise, beautifully executed. See it.


This adaptation of Terry Ryan's memoirs of growing up in a large,Catholic family in Ohio was quietly released last fall and really probably would've fallen through the cracks completely had it not been for some nice word of mouth. Kind of a shame,really.

Evelyn Ryan(Julianne Moore,as brilliant in fifties hoop-skirts and coif as she is as any other era)has made a career as a mother of ten children and as a jingle contest writer. It seems that,in Eisenhower-era America,corporations often appealed to the public for ideas for commercial diddies,and being of sharp eye,ears and mind watching television constantly and armed with notebook and pencil,she would craft together various jingles to mail off and would,remarkably,win a great many of the contests she'd entered. She'd become so persistent in sending jingles that she would mail multiple entries to single contests and enter them under the names of her kids. Her talent is not only uncannily bankable but proves to be vital as her husband,a basically nice guy with a bad drinking problem(Woody Harrelson,middle-aged and paunchy here)can't seem to make his Machinist job paychecks reconcile his liquor purchases to his responsibilities as a husband and father. Given his tendency to anger(particularly when drunk),he naturally starts to feel jealousy and this would create inevitable friction. Among the kids that is affected by this friction is daughter Tuff(Ellery Porterfield),who cannot understand why her upbeat,seemingly unflappable mom would tolerate(among other things)her unsteady dad and seemingly always-on-the-verge-of-disaster home life.

This is one of those "This would be COMPLETELY unbelievable if it weren't true" stories,and one STILL is in wonderment of the elements of this tale(i.e. the amount of contests won and the fact that there were groups of women who wrote jingles non-professionally).Still,it's a unique and entertaining piece of nostalgia that makes up for what it lacks in "zazz"(i.e. sex and violence) with heart and intelligence. This might be still a little too steeped in "You go girl!" sentiment to escape the "Chick Flick" ephitet,but I feel like male or female can enjoy this story if they're willing to take in this all around well-acted(among others involved,Laura Dern as a fellow jingle writer and Trevor Morgan as son Bruce)tale of ingenuity and resillience. Quite a neat find on the rental counter!


This is a great movie! I had never even heard of it when I saw it advertised on Starz. It looked "cute" so I Tivoed it. What a wonderful movie. At first it kept my interest but I soon believed that it was going to fall into the same type of alcoholic wife-beating father who could care less about his family. Woody Harrelson played a very sympathetic and pathetic character and pulled off a brilliant performance. His character was real and while he spent every day in the bottle, he was constantly afraid that something would happen to "Mother". His love for her was portrayed in a way that I had not seen in the movies before and it was very believable. The end of the movie proved to be better than I ever expected. This turned out to be based on a true story written by one of their children. It was at this point that the tears started coming. All of the children are shown with a brief history of their accomplishments and family. Ten out of ten children have very successful careers and families. I don't consider this movie to be a "chick flick" at all and believe that lessons are there to be learned from anyone interested in watching.


I happened to pick this gem up from the previously viewed rack. I had never heard of it before then. It has turned out to be one of my favorites. I'm glad I snatched it up and bought it.

Its a real shame it didn't get a bigger advertising budget or bigger release. As another person said, its a thinking person's film. Give yourself a treat and watch it. Juliane Moore makes an excellent Evelyn Ryan.

Definitely gives you a feel for the 50's, showing a fantastic and creative woman struggling to raise her large, financially distressed family with brains, wit and optimism. - A highly inspirational movie!


I went to blockbuster and, perusing, the "new movies" walls around the perimeter of the store, I found this and decided it looked interesting, and it was. I believe it wouldn't be apropos to put in too much plot info, this will be a rather skeletal review as to what transpires in the movie. It's based on a true story, no contrivances -- or very few, anyway. Back in the early 1960s (I was born in '62 so I wasn't quite old enough to remember) when companies sponsored "jingle contests" for cash, she entered and won a few dollars which were helpful to her and her husband in raising a family of 10 kids. I felt the depiction of the ups and downs of having such a family back then was very well done. The ambiance of the movie -- everything having to be 1960s -- was incredible; this movie looks like it was made in the 1960s, actually. I strongly encourage all to watch the movie and pass it along. I found the PG-13 rating to be justified but I didn't find any gratuitously objectionable material for any of my over-13 kids -- that's saying a lot considering many of today's pg-13 movies. Younger children or some adults/kids for whom some of this may hit too close to home might find it disturbing -- sorry but I feel not to give away anything, it's better to see it as it comes, I believe. I predict this will become immensely popular as the word gets out.


I don't remember hearing about this movie in trailers or on TV or even on the internet. But, I was surfing through our Pay-Per-View and came across the title and was interested. As I read about who was in it and the summer, "a woman who tries to raise her 10 children in a small town off of winnings from contest entries, set in the 50s era", I thought, I would like to learn more. So I ventured over to IMDb.com to find out more. It sounded so interesting, that I gave it a try.

It was well worth it. I think I cried the entire movie, whether it was due to laughter or sadness. I thought it was so very creative. It reminded me of a Doris Day movie, with all the scenes overlapping and colors. It was fantastic. And the ending, which I will not give away, left me feelings so happy, while tears streamed my face.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone, and have! The actors were magnificent, not just Julianne Moore and Woodly Harrelson, but the kids, as well! So believable and just a good feeling movie!


"The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," made me sick to my stomach. Literally. The whole time I was watching it, my stomach churned. I kept watching it because I wanted to see how an alleged comedy would handle its very serious subject matter: alcoholism and domestic abuse.

"Prize Winner" was advertised as a perky, wholesome entertainment. The opening title sequence is cuteness squared. Happy and sunny, late fifties / early sixties fonts, music, dresses, hairstyles, eyeglasses and make-up evoke that era's suburbia with warmth and accuracy. The costumes and set design alone deserve three stars.

The rest of the movie is painful. It depicts a profoundly dysfunctional family. Evelyn Ryan is the mother of ten. A gifted writer, she wins contest prizes in, for those days, huge sums -- sums large enough, in one case, to purchase a modest home.

Kelly Ryan, her husband, is a drunk. Kelly is verbally abusive. He also comes close to being physically abusive. He destroys family belongings. He squanders the family's money so badly that Evelyn must humiliate herself, repeatedly, in front of the milkman. The milkman is evil personified. He's more like Dracula than the deliverer of a wholesome product.

Evelyn, in response to her abusive husband, is a passive aggressive doormat. She never even learns to drive. She hands over complete financial control to Kelly.

The movie wants us to believe that Evelyn is a martyr and a saint and a role model and a gift to humanity and the very best mom her kids ever could have been blessed with. The movie also wants us to believe that Evelyn had to do everything exactly the way she did it. She had to marry a man who was a shiftless drunk; she had to have ten kids by him though she couldn't feed those kids; she had no choice when he became violent.

The Catholic church made Evelyn do it. Male police officers made Evelyn do it. The fifties made Evelyn do it. Evelyn had no free will.

There's a scene where Evelyn is so without funds that she has to feed her children food full of insects. When the children complain, she says, "Those are not insects. Those are spices." The point is not to blame Evelyn Ryan. The point is that the movie lies to the viewer as much as Evelyn lies to her kids when she feeds them insects.

Evelyn married a shiftless drunk, she had ten kids by him, and she handed all power over to him because she wanted to. Evelyn participated in creating a tense home environment every bit as much as her husband. The Catholic church, the police and the 1950s didn't make Evelyn do anything.

A movie that told the truth about a woman who fed her own children bugs would not make that woman out to be a blameless martyr, and her husband out to be a complete monster. A movie that told the truth would explore the psychology of a woman who is attracted to alcoholics, and attracted to the martyr role that the wife of an alcoholic often plays.

This movie didn't do that. Rather, it played with fire -- took up very painful themes -- and tried to convince the audience that these themes were all fun, wholesome, and sweet. Result? In this viewer, a churning stomach.


Everyone involved with the making of the Prize Winner, from Jack Rapke and Jane Anderson down to the caterers, are to be commended for bringing a special kind of love to this project. Part of the reason this movie is sometimes misunderstood is because truth is stranger than fiction. That one woman could accomplish so much without traditional financial resources or a political power base seems improbable to parts of today's audience. Evelyn Ryan fought and won a spiritual battle in the privacy of her own home, without a team of advocacy specialists or whining support groups. If a fiction writer had tried to invent her, she would have been clobbered. As it is, there is big family of descendants and a whole town of folks who remember Evelyn and her brood. This stuff really happened. And it's a great story.


Did this movie seem a bit lifeless to you? Did it seem at times claustrophobic, slow and lugubrious? Were you wondering, what is the point? Then by all means, don't watch the director's comments. It will bring the experience to a screeching halt.

Every scene was clean and tidy. Everyone was in their places. Control was omnipresent. The director was not being a director so much as a compulsive tidier and organizer. All life was drained out of this film. And I must ask – was it really that great an idea or story to begin with? Perhaps with some re-working the story could have been more dynamic, but as it was, who really wants to watch a peppy woman sit in front of a TV set with her 10 children, watching, with a notebook in her hand while her husband in the kitchen has a boring temper tantrum because "he doesn't live up to the image of what it means to be a man in the 50s?" A big mistake was made in emphasizing the whole contest angle (& secondarily, some predictable commentary on being a woman in the 50s) over the soul of a woman who not only had 10 children and a drunk for a husband, but raised her children well (apparently) and kept her composure doing it (supposedly). The children were abstractions - punctuation marks, wallpaper; again, the focus was on clean and tidy scenes, on set design rather than storytelling.

As for the mother, Evelyn Ryan, herself, one suspects that in actuality she was a bit saucier in real life, and probably had her own temper tantrums from time to time. Sometimes the movie rang false because of its seemingly childlike insistence on seeing the mother as a saint. We get it: she took lemons and made lemon aide, but she did so in a flat way that did not engage the viewer's credulity, imagination or intellect. Perhaps that's really how it was.

Technically semi well- but unimaginatively-done.


As much of The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio relates to a bygone era, the visual elements beginning the film are critical in transporting the viewer to 1956.Julianne Moore herself is inserted perfectly among the other time pieces in the role of Evelyn Ryan, America's model "Mom" who now exists in conceptual form only. If this is the same Julianne Moore who played 'Amber Waves'opposite (or should we say underneath) 'Dirk Diggler' in Boogie Nights, we may be witnessing the greatest actress of our time,as these roles traverse not only the decades, but the spectrum of motherhood itself. The stylization of key characters, costumes and sets envelop us to the degree that it boggles the mind that this is a true story.It's hard not to compare 'Prize Winner' to Angela's Ashes given the overlap of a father's moral impotence against a large brood who he deprives by drinking his wages.Evelyn by contrast makes lemons from lemonade. Perhaps the only shortcoming was the suggestion of conflict between this good catholic family and the deficiency of the Church since the only religious inferences we are to draw are negative and overly obvious (too many children,the drunk, chastising priest,and kids in the closet rattling their rosaries). The evaporation of contesting was delivered as tastefully as any other cultural vanishing portrayed in Tin Men, or A League of Their Own. This is Americana at its finest.


Here we have a movie about a bright and creative woman who for some reason chooses to make a life with a man who can only be described as a stupid drunk. They then compound the problem by having a huge number of children they can't afford to feed, and home life is very precarious. We learn nothing of the woman's own background that would help us understand why she made such poor choices for her life. The feel-good ending implies that her children turned out happy and successful, but what a lot they were put through to get there! This is a maudlin movie that is more pathetic than inspirational, because the heroine doesn't overcome adversity so much as bring it upon herself. I assume the book must have been better.


Well, in the past couple years, we've seen all sorts of explicit experiments in visiting the movie past. Some of these are simply through emulation: using old story and acting conventions, perhaps even old cameras, sets film stock and so on. Others visit the past in more clever and indirect ways. "Goodnight and Good Luck" was a thoroughly modern picture set fifty years ago and wearing that era like a costume. Gosh, now that I think, there are too many to list, each interesting in what they choose to use from the past and how they use them as objects or environments.

Now this. Here's a case where the movie is a strange disappointment if you watch movies for the story as the direct carrier of its intent. Its confused beyond what the normal viewer can tolerate and where the filmmaker intends ambiguity and tension we get the impression the film is a failure. But it isn't; it is wholly realized, its just that the message is conveyed on the telephone wires next to the track instead of on the train.

The story: a woman has ten kids and a husband who is a mean drunk. She's completely on her own; her priest (she's Catholic, obviously) and the local police buddy up to her husband against her. She's bright so she enters contests — a previously popular advertising gimmick — and wins enough to save her family (always at the very last moment) from certain disaster. The woman is played by Julianne Moore, and superficially she creates a woman who is defiantly happy no matter what. No matter what, even after negotiating charity from the milkman, then having her lousy spouse push her down breaking all the milk and seriously cutting her. Smiles still — to the hospital and back.

So if you stick with the story, defiance is in her attitude and the prize is this sainthood granted her by her children, one of whom writes the thing.

The narrative experiment and happy, happy gloss is established well before we know she's cursed by what feminists would rebel against. And its that narrative structure that you will find interesting.

Julianne's character is the narrator. Often, she looks directly at the camera and speaks to us. Sometimes, she is on screen twice; once as the narrator and again oblivious to the fact she is being spoken about.

This notion is extended by a gimmick. Her contests mostly are posed on TeeVee shows and there's a lot of overlap in several different ways between TeeVee space and narrator space. That narrator space gets pretty big; One example: our narrator explains how contests are judged. She sits on an envelope and flies to New York, following the entry. Another: she wins a sandwich slogan contest and the sandwich literally comes out of the screen with three dancing women in pastel dresses (like that of our heroine). They commingle with the narrator-TeeVee-contest space which by that time we've accepted as her private refuge from reality.

Later, the house becomes populated not with actors playing the ten children, but the actual children themselves, now grown of course. In this sequence we see the daughter who wrote the book take her mom's typewriter.

Its scads more sophisticated than say, what Woody Allen did in "Purple Rose of Cairo." But it reads.

And it works — if you allow it — because Julianne knows how to place two persons in one role, what I call folded acting; two skins one hers and one ours.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.


From "Imitation of Life" to "Stella Dallas" to "Mildred Pierce" to "I Remember Mama", fiction writers have doted on the character of the self-sacrificing, heroic and larger-than-life mother. She is the one who holds the family together, and perseveres (even when she is a flawed person) so that her children may be able to achieve a better life than the difficult one she struggled through so gallantly.

Occasionally, the strong mother role is matched against a weak but lovable husband/father, like in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." There the charming yet irresponsible drunken father is himself idealized by a worshiping young daughter, and the strong but tough wife/mother is minimized in the story because she refuses to buy into her mate's unrealistic pipe dreams.

Here we have yet another variation on this genre, supposedly drawn from real life. Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore), the mother in this memoir written by her obviously admiring daughter, reminds us of that old adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Her two-dimensional character is so fine, so strong, so in control of her hard life and such a role model for mothers of her time and situation----that we are left to wonder where her warts may be hidden. Or is the idea here that she has no warts at all---not even one? "Stella Dallas" is a much more interesting story because it makes no pretense at being non-fiction. "Stella" is indeed flawed but certainly appears to be a more realistic character than this movie version of Evelyn.

She is so idealized, while the father is pretty much demonized. Woody Harrelson's Kelly Ryan has very little to recommend him, and a great deal to be criticized about. He is also a two-dimensional character----a polar opposite of the sweet but quite depleted drunk played by James Dunn in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." Of course, "Prize" is presented to us as fact, and we are supposed to believe that Evelyn and Kelly Ryan more or less existed in real life as they are depicted in this film.

There is no way for a non-family member to know for certain that this is so----but I suspect that the truth underlying the little story may be somewhat different and more complicated than the daughter, Tuff's, rather black and white narrative suggests.

Characters who are multi-dimensional and complex are far more interesting than those who are portrayed as either the icing on the cake or leftovers that give you a belly ache.

I know-----truth is supposed to be stranger than fiction. That may be the case, if most of this is actually true. But is it?

Maybe Dreamworks should have titled the film "Big Mrs. Sunshine"!