The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio is one of those movies that definitely did not get the recognition it should have received when it hit the big screen. This drama comedy now on DVD is simply brilliant, daring in its style, and a perfect balance of dark realism and a rose-colored view of the world. Both Julianne Moore as Evelyn Ryan and Woody Harrelson as her manic-depressive alcoholic husband Kelly give stunning performances. Director Jane Anderson manages a mix of the happy fifty comedy movie style and a more modern look at a struggling family that depends on the mother's ability to win contests to keep its head above water.
Jane Anderson did everything to perfection in this drama comedy DVD. The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio often breaks the fourth wall to address the viewer, walks a very fine line between drama and comedy (such as the brilliant scene where the family is trying to come up with a jingle for a sandwich while Kelly, who is in his kitchen lair and drunk, comes up with some much darker but just as funny lyrics for the contest). Even in her darkest moments, Evelyn can come up with a funny ditty. Anderson is very aware of the way things were done in the fifties and wisely decided not to show the relationship between Kelly and Evelyn through modern eyes: Yes, Kelly Ryan is a violent drunk and yes the cops and the priest basically protect him and tell the wife not to worry and to try harder to understand her husband.
The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio is a movie about perseverance and strength of character. It is clear Evelyn and Kelly (Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson) and deeply in love but it is just as clear Kelly is a deeply trouble man and Evelyn is holding the family together with her writing abilities.
This is certainly not a rose-colored glasses based on a true story movie. Evelyn may win a lot of stuff and manage to keep her family fed and clothed but her own aspirations are often thwarted (as symbolized by her inability to ever go anywhere). These are real people with real problems. Still, The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio manages to show how strong people can survive almost anything.
The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio is a dark, complex, funny, drama comedy DVD that is a must see.