The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio


The true-life story of Evelyn Ryan, a clever Catholic mother of 10 who kept her family afloat by winning lucrative ’50s slogan and jingle contests while her abusive husband drank away his meager machinist’s salary. The film never played in Sacramento when it was released last fall, but we didn’t miss much: Its story grows repetitive within half an hour. As the saintly contest winner, Julianne Moore once again exhibits her uncanny, Oliver North-esque ability to burst into tears at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson struggles valiantly to be convincing as the husband. Director Jane Anderson’s unsteady tone sinks the picture. It starts off kitschy; suddenly turns heavy in the middle; and then goes all creepy-mushy at the end, with an in-character Moore kissing the cheek of Ryan’s actual daughter.