Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Starring: Julianne Moore & Woody Harrelson
Director: Jane Anderson

Of all the roles Moore plays well, she excels most at bringing new dimension to the housewife with unfulfilled yearnings. That's definitely the case with Jane anderson's The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, the involving true story of an educated mother who tries to support her spouse and ten children by winning contests to write corporate jingles. Because Moore's prize winner is also the family breadwinner, her drunkard husband, Kelly, spends most of his time feeling castrated and lashing out. Unfortunately, Harrelson mirrors his character's failings by not carrying his share of the acting load; his portrayal alternates between episodes of simplistic rage and simplistic remorse. These extremes prevent us from understanding why Evelyn Ryan would stay with him, unless out of sheer sainthood -- and, of course, a devotion to her 1950s values. What should be a significant flaw is eclipsed by the high quality of everything else onscreen, starting with Moore, whose ability to conquer her disappointment is both inspiring and heartbreaking. (Her narration is also a consistent treat.) The period production design jumps off the screen in cheery pastels that belie the story's pervasive darkness. It's a fun snapshot of an era when television shows and ads were always cross-pollinated, and grand prizes came in the form of a lifetime supply of birdseed. And while the husband-wife relationship never feels completely true, the movie does capture an authentic and touching bond between Evelyn and her feisty daughter Tuff -- whose memoirs inspired this film. For those seeking it out, the film also contains a covert indictment of the Catholic Church. Not only are Evelyn's problems exacerbated by an unwillingness to consider either birth control or divorce, but a priest with alcohol on his breath makes light of Kelly Ryan's crash-and-burn boozing. (99 mins.)

My Rating: ***

No comments:

Post a Comment