"The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" has one of the clunkiest names but one of the most fascinating true stories. If the story of Evelyn Ryan was fictional, it would seem a bit mundane. But as soon as the words "based on a true story" appear, this becomes a heroic tale of an anything-but-mundane housewife. I expected to half-watch this film as I did work but I was immediately taken by its unique style. It feels so 50's, from the video slideshow flashback to the jingle singers mingling with the real world. The style is complimented by excellent performances by Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. Moore's layered performance expresses her disappointment with her husband while maintaining a stiff upper lip to hold her family together. Her face does not always reflect her feelings, and yet we know. Woody does the opposite with dynamic acting that brings a true sense of intimidation to his character while still breaking to show his insecurity. The most wild thing is the unconditional love of Evelyn. In most movies, she would have left her husband or had him arrested, but in real life she was able to immediately forgive his abusive and irresponsible actions because of the hardships that he faced. She redefines the word "selfless." The expertly written script builds the tension between the two of them, first starting with an almost comical scene and then slowly revealing the seriousness as the film progresses. I was also very impressed with Ellary Porterfield as Tuff but wanted to see more of Laura Dern. Since this script is based on the memoir of Tuff Ryan, I'm sure that the characters of Kelly and Ray the Milkman are negatively exaggerated, but that is part of what makes this story so fascinating. We get to see it from the perspective of an adult reflecting on her childhood. "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" is the complete package with a family that you can root for, a constant source of conflict, and an amazing story of perseverance that is enhanced by a revealing of the successes of this family's lineage.
[Pictured: The shopping spree scene is one of my favorites]