The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a 2005 biographical film written and directed by Jane Anderson. It is based on the book by Terry Ryan. The film stars Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern. The film received a limited release on October 14, 2005.


The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is based on the true story of housewife Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore), who helped support her husband and ten children by winning jingle-writing contests.

Evelyn's husband, Kelly (Woody Harrelson), failed to support his family in part due to apparent alcoholism. He had dreamed of being a singer but lost his singing voice in a car accident, and was often cruel and abusive.

In the movie, Evelyn wins a large freezer, ice buckets, washer and dryer, trip to New York City, sleds, boots, pony, palm tree, window, sports car, shopping spree in her local grocery store, ice crushers, camera, dance shoes, boat motor, pogo sticks, case of dog food, and a lifetime supply of bird seed. Kelly, who feels like his role as provider for the family is being threatened, criticizes Evelyn and sometimes damages the prizes she wins. Their children side with her. At one point, Kelly gets angry at his wife and knocks her over while she is carrying 12 full glass bottles of milk, causing her to nearly sever a ligament. Evelyn is able to talk him down after each incident and, temporarily at least, he treats her better.

Evelyn is largely isolated because of the hours she has to spend caring for the children and the lack of local intellectual equals. However, she is contacted by a group of other contest-entering mid-western housewives and befriends them.

Ultimately, Evelyn discovers that Kelly had secretly taken out a second mortgage on their house and never made payments on it, leaving the family subject to an almost-certain foreclosure. The children pray for their mother's miraculous victory in a contest sponsored by Dr Pepper. She wins and pays the mortgage on the house.

In the closing sequence, set years later, we learn that after Kelly died, Evelyn finds out that he has placed his pension checks in a bank account especially for her. The actual Ryan children are then shown as adults.


Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews, garnering 57% on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6/10, based on 82 reviews.[2] Metacritic reported a score of 58/100 (citing "mixed or average reviews"), based on reviews from 28 critics.[3] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3Template:Frac out of 4 stars, remarking that the movie "avoids obvious sentiment and predictable emotion and shows this woman somehow holding it together year after year, entering goofy contests that for her family mean life and death."[4]

Home media

The film was released on DVD on March 14, 2006.


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on February 7, 2014.
  2. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on May 12, 2011.
  3. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Metacritic. Retrieved on February 7, 2014.
  4. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (movie review), Chicago Sun-Times, September 30, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-13.

External links


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