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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)

Set in the post-war 1950s, director Jane Anderson portrays the life of Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore), a mother of ten who supported her family as a "contester" by winning an astounding number of prizes for her hundreds if not thousands of entries. Evelyn is an irrepressible mother, cheerful, dutiful, brilliant, and probably an enabler to her husband Kelly. Kelly (Woody Harrelson) is an insecure, self-loathing under-achiever whose alcoholism explodes into fits of rage and violence. But as was true for that era, he was the man of the house who called all the shots. When the cops arrive to quell their domestic violence, they chat with Kelly about baseball; when the priest comes over he advises Evelyn to be a better wife. If not for Evelyn's soothing, confident oil upon these troubled waters, the Ryan family and marriage would have both disintegrated. In an interesting technical twist Anderson has a double of Evelyn narrate parts of the film. Anderson based the film on the family memoir The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan (one of the ten children). As someone who was raised in a family of eight in the age of Father Knows Best, I loved this emotionally rich film about a mom who had no power but all the influence.

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