Tuesday, November 10, 2009

C: The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less.

Don’t you love based-on-fact stories of victory? This is one of my very favorite movies. Why it is that more people don't know about it is beyond me. I have yet to recommend this movie, starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson, to someone who has already seen it. It is based on a memoir written by Terry Ryan about her mother Evelyn. Growing up in Eisenhower-era middle-America, author Terry was one of ten—yes, ten!—of Evelyn’s children.

What you see in this movie is Evelyn as the glue of the family. Woody Harrelson is soooo convincing as the volatile, alcoholic father who spends his family’s milk money on booze. There is Evelyn, at home managing this brood, and steering deftly around her husband’s brokenness to bring her family through. Her only means was contesting. She was a wildly successful jingle-writer, and it literally kept a roof over her family’s head.

One of my favorite lines? When the clothes washer and dryer she just won were delivered, she gleefully exclaimed, “No more boiling diapers on the stove!!” Egads!

I will warn that I have had people watch this movie and say it was a “downer.” I just cannot see this perspective. The movie depicts hard things: Dad's alcohol abuse, his immaturity and recklessness, the fear his children felt of his rage, and his chagrin over Evelyn’s success as a contester even though he profited from it. (Must never let the little woman think she’s anything special….). But in the end I see it as a story of triumph.

Ultimately, Evelyn triumphed in her home and life, just like she did in all those contests. The town in which this family grew up was, indeed, “Defiance, Ohio.” I think that name was no accident for Evelyn, for she stood in absolute defiance of her situation.

But Evelyn’s defiance was not of her husband or her circumstances. It was a defiance that was fiercely protective of her entire family, including that husband whom many of us would have kicked to the curb. She is shown as a determined, loyal and loving mother. Her children never, never doubted her love and determination for them. And even her husband would let slip his total dependence on this strong woman. There is one scene where the landlord has visited the home to advise that the family must move in two weeks. Naturally, the children are disturbed and meet Dad at the driveway when he comes home from work. They give him the news of the impending move and express their worry, to which he replies, “Don’t worry. Mother will figure something out.” Yes, always Mother…

I love stories of strong women, especially in an era when society did nothing to promote independence and strength in women. It was not Evelyn’s ambition that drove her, but her love of her family. I found it absolutely uplifting. And, furthermore, when Evelyn finally gets to meet with her contesting community--other bright women finding their way out of bondage through contesting--I am so reminded of my blogging community!

I’ve not read the book, but it is on my short list.

Here's a trailer for just a taste:

The acting is superb. The story is triumphant--and TRUE! What more could you ask for? If you take the time to watch this movie, be sure to wait at the end credits when you will be told what happens in adulthood to each and every one of Evelyn’s ten children. Believe me, they—each and every one—did her proud!! I would have expected nothing else. C

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