Monday, August 06, 2007

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Do you know what contesting is? Neither did I, until I saw this quirky and powerful film, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

The film is set in the early 1930's and 40's and stars the stately Julianne Moore as a mother of ten (!) with a knack for verse and rhyme. She enters numerous contests, whether they be for two dollars or a washer/dryer system, and she usually wins. Her husband (played by the not-so-stately Woody Harrelson) works in a metal shop and comes home every night with two bottles of whiskey. He's got a major drinking problem and when he drinks, he gets angry and violent, often at Julianne Moore's Evelyn.

There are some chilling scenes of domestic violence and truly uncomfortable sequences that deal with the inner workings of a large, dysfunctional, family. But these heavy moments are buoyed by a sense of optimism that runs through the movie. The family may be poor and hungry, but when Evelyn wins a shopping spree in a supermarket, there's a wonderful sense of fun as she grabs filet mignon and caviar and other "good stuff."

The film might have gotten buried in its own setup if it wasn't for Julianne Moore's smile. She smiles throughout the whole movie (pretty much). Even when her daughter, pessimistic Tuff, wonders how she can be happy when her life so plainly sucks, Moore's character just laughs and tries to enjoy whatever moment she happens to be in. She's a revelation in this film, her best performance yet.

There's some great sequences regarding the contesting, the way it works and some nice musical montages relating to various jingles. My favorite scenes, though, involve a group of contesting housewives who form a club called the AffiDaises. They get together, make lunch, and talk shop. But the majority of the movie deals with the husband's drinking problem and the way it affects the family, making it an often depressing film.

With its mix of joy and sadness, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a disjointed but enjoyable film. Heed my warning, though, it's not for the faint of heart.



Blogger happy roy said...

ooh, we should definitely add movie reviews to this site! not that i should talk considering i've barely contributed to this blow in over a year (two?). but there are so many indie films but which don't get reviewed since they're not big mainstream hits. i loved this movie and i agree with you, elad. julianne moore's smile really kept the movie from falling under the weight of the alcoholism, abuse and near foreclosures.

August 06, 2007 4:29 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

hey!!! Welcome back to the blog world! Good to see you comment - I was wondering where you have been. How is the post-wedding bliss?

August 06, 2007 5:16 PM  
Blogger happy roy said...

thanks shawn! i'm sorry i've been gone for so long. i'm going to make an effort to contribute at least once a week. i can't promise miracles, but i'm sure i could come up with something mildly interesting at least once in awhile!

post-wedding life has been sooo busy! we've had a bunch of friends' weddings to attend/participate in so nearly all of our free time went towards those. now that the summer is winding down, we're finally finding a little spare time to househunt and relax.

August 10, 2007 11:29 AM  

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