East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Movie for Mother's Day: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Come on, you shouldn't be sick of Julianne Moore as a postwar mother yet. In the great Far from Heaven, Todd Haynes played down her maternal side: the kids barely mattered. In The Hours, Moore had the shallowest part of the three leads and was merely good. In Jane Anderson's Defiance, Ohio, Moore evades the danger of tedious saintliness, and overcomes an uncharacteristically hammy turn from Woody Harrelson, to become Evelyn Ryan, Ubermom: glowing, gifted and sometimes dangerously witty. Moore is fabulous with the mostly undifferentiated kids and deftly carries Ellary Porterfield, as the smart one, through some gush-minefield bonding scenes.

Even if Kelly, her husband, wasn't capable of surprising kindness, Evelyn is past the point where dumping him is an option. (When Kelly distraughtly confesses he thought his day-tripping wife had gone for good, she responds "You know I'd never leave the kids with you.") For all her wordplay, Kelly's greatest skill is her ability to create happiness in impossible circumstances through sheer will. There might be absurd constraints on the life you live, but why not make the most of what you've got? Life isn't that simple, of course: there's no reason to be pleased about a waste of talent, and situations arise that even she can't be happy about (cue obligatory Moore crying scene). It all ends happyishly, though, and why not? If life isn't all that miserable, art doesn't have to be.


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