Version: 2005; starring Julianne Moore.
Genre: drama; biographical
Plot Summary: Evelyn Ryan is a housewife and mother of five who keeps her family afloat during the 1950’s by entering jingle-writing contests.
My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel. Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.
I vaguely remember reading something similar (about a mother entering contests to make money) in an old edition of Reminisce magazine at the dentist’s years ago. It may have been about the same family, or perhaps another family of the same era. In any case, I interested in seeing this movie with a strong, female character. Also, I was wanted to see Julianne Moore’s acting since she won an Oscar last year for Best Actress. I was not expecting this film to be as thought provoking as it was.
You’re a hardworking housewife with a family of 10 kids. You’re husband has a job but drinks all the money away. It’s the 1950’s. Few women work outside the home and there aren’t many options. What would you do? For a woman named Evelyn Ryan, the answer was sitting right in front of her in the living room via the television. Decades ago, it used to be that companies would put out commercial contests in which ordinary citizens could win prizes and cash money by winning jingle-writing ads for products. But there weren’t many who could actually say they made a living off of it.
It’s remarkable the talent, creativity and ingenuity that an ordinary woman with no degree in anything had to put food on the table. Most would shrivel up in bitterness and negativity, full of blame and despair. But even though the Ryan children grew up in a family with an alcoholic father, they saw their mother persevere with optimism and a compassionate attitude toward her husband. We see the family’s story through the eyes of the middle daughter, Tuff. Their pain is not masked by a fake smiley-face and the realities of growing up in a dysfunctional family take their toll, but their mother’s strength manages to keep them all together through the many hardships they face. As a result, the children grew up to be quite successful adults. The complicated interactions between Evelyn and her husband are well acted, and the food scene in which Mr. Ryan begins a tantrum while Mrs. Ryan enjoys her meal was quite interesting psychologically.
I enjoyed the acting, costumes and props in this movie. There really is no adult content, but there are some curse words (during the father’s drinking binges). There is some sensuousness between husband and wife, but nothing gets graphic. I believe my favorite scene was when Evelyn wins an all-you-can-pack-into-a-cart-in-10-min. shopping spree. Do not cross a woman with a method!
It’s hard for me to say if this is a ‘family movie’. It’s not easy watching the themes presented, but sadly it is a reality for many in this world. It may be one for parents to prewatch if they have concerns. Otherwise, I really would recommend it. There was nothing shabby about the quality of this film, and there was a lot of retro eye candy for vintage lovers!