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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

4.6 out of 5 stars 224 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Anything is possible with a little laughter and a lot of heart in this incredible true story of an extraordinary woman who raised 10 kids on 25 words or less. Academy Award® nominee Julianne Moore stars as Evelyn Ryan, a devoted housewife and mother, who uses her knack for words to win thousands of dollars in jingle contests to keep her family together. Also starring Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson, this witty and engaging comedy celebrates the power of a winning spirit.

Special Features

  • Commentary by actress Julianne Moore
  • Commentary by director Jane Anderson
  • Still gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Trevor Morgan, Ellary Porterfield
  • Directors: Jane Anderson
  • Writers: Jane Anderson, Terry Ryan
  • Producers: Jack Rapke, Marty P. Ewing, Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Dreamworks Video
  • DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (224 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000DZIGEO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,013 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sandra Wellman on May 16, 2006
Format: DVD
My family lived next door to the Ryans in their early years. After they moved, we also kept in touch with Evelyn and several of the children. My mother used to tell us about all the prizes that Evelyn would win. She really was gifted. The alcoholism of her husband was only slightly known, however. That sort of thing was kept quiet. My mother said the film was very real and close to the facts. Evelyn was a modern-day "Super-Woman!"
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Add me to the list of fans who think the wonderful Julianne Moore deserved an Oscar nod for this film. This is a fairly faithful adaptation of Terry Ryan's memoir - both my wife and I have read and enjoyed the book. Ms. Moore portrays Evelyn Ryan, a strong and intelligent "housewife" of the 1950's and mother of ten, who uses her writing talents to win contests, literally keeping her family together and the wolf from the door. As presented in the book, her timing in winning prizes of cash, cars and appliances was uncannily timely. Woody Harrelson does a fine job, too, portraying her alcoholic and explosive husband, Kelly. Laura Dern appears also in a small role as Evelyn's contesting friend Dortha. And the supporting cast of kids are great, too, especially the young actress who portrays daughter "Tuff" (who grew to be the author of the book). I have only minor quibbles with the film. First, I found the "fourth-wall" effect of Ms. Moore talking to the audience with her own character in the same scene a little surreal (I would have thought having "Tuff" as the narrator would have been a better, though conventional, choice); and as expected, some liberties are taken with the book. For instance, in the scene where Kelly ends up with a bowl of Jello mold all over him, I believe it was accidental in the book, while in the film it's quite intentional. While one can understand Evelyn's rage, her character would have never wasted food that way. Otherwise, though, the film does a good job in depicting a housewife's plight in those days, from financial (her husband being the sole signer of the house they purchased with her cash prize), to domestic abuse (the attitude that she just had to put up with an abusive, alcoholic husband, even the implication by a priest that it was her fault). Ms.Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If I ruled the world, this year's list of Oscar nominations for Best Picture of 2005 would include THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO. PRIZE WINNER is based on Terry ("Tuff") Ryan's best-selling 2001 memoir THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO: HOW MY MOTHER RAISED 10 KIDS ON 25 WORDS OR LESS. It's an Eisenhower-era haunted house movie in which the monsters are bankers, milkmen, priests, and policemen, while the damsel-in-distress is a tenacious Catholic housewife.

This could have been grim stuff, but filmmaker Jane Anderson (who won Emmy and WGA awards in 1993 for THE POSITIVELY TRUE ADVENTURES OF THE ALLEGED TEXAS CHEERLEADER-MURDERING MOM, and received Emmy, WGA, and DGA nominations in 2003 for NORMAL), takes her lead from Tuff, adopting Tuff's triumphant tone as her own. As "Evelyn Ryan," Julianne Moore gives a performance of incredible depth and nuance: smiling on the outside, screaming on the inside. Woody Harrelson also succeeds in giving husband "Kelly Ryan" a soul, making it clear that Kelly is just as much a victim of societal expectations as Evelyn is.

I frankly don't know why this film didn't do better at box office, and I predict it will be very popular when it hits the DVD shelves on March 14th. It will, of course, be categorized as "a chick flick," and many men will therefore be loath to see it. That's a shame, because Evelyn Ryan was as uniquely American as Truman Capote, Edward R. Morrow and her other well-known male contemporaries, and even though she encased herself in girdles and dowdy dresses, the heroic dimensions of "a life well lived" are clear for all to see.
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Format: DVD
THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO probably went unnoticed in the theaters because of the title and because of the sappy posters that accompanied its release. Sounds like a silly little flick, but in reality it contains a fine re-creation of the 1950s, of the way women were viewed in that era, of the indomitable spirit of a mother who must raise ten children without the help of an inadequate husband - and a finely wrought performance by one of our bets actresses on the screen today.

Julianne Moore gives one of her signature understated roles as Evelyn Ryan, creating an unlikely character in whom the audience finds a depth of substance and durability. Living in Defiance, Ohio with her machinist cum alcoholic husband Kelly (Woody Harrelson) who is unable to bring home money after his purchases of booze to support his large family. Evelyn copes by entering contests of jingles and poems put out by advertising companies and with her earnings supports her family physically as well as emotionally. Though often thwarted by her husband's actions, she still manages to keep the boat afloat, to maintain her dreams, and to make the best of a bad situation.

Moore is radiant as usual, but in this role she is even more subtle in creating an unlikely character than in even her best films. She is a stunning actress and deserved at least an Oscar nomination for her strong work. The story is based on truth and that helps its credibility as a film. But though the story lacks magnitude, Moore brings it to a level of excellence with her extraordinary gifts. Recommended. Grady Harp, March 06
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