Dear Ms. Moore,

Congratulations on adding yet another 1950's pre-feminist housewife to your résumé with The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. You have become quite the poet of the Eisenhower era, and yet your roles have not been slavish repeats of each other: in Far from Heaven, you played a woman who learns to express herself sexually, despite the mores of the times; in The Hours, you played a woman who learns to express her own individuality, despite the mores of the times; here, you play a woman who learns to express her creativity and be a mother and wife on her own terms, despite the mores of the times.

Okay, so there's a bit of repetition there, but somehow you make it work. In the current film for example, you play a woman who does not apparently have any markedly feminist urgings, but nevertheless knows that something is not entirely right with the world around you. It's not exactly that Evelyn Ryan is a "sad" woman, but there's something about her cheerfulness that is clearly a facade. In one scene, for example, you have a line to the effect of, all your prayers went with your children. That was all you prayed for. And despite the smile on your mouth, something in your eyes expresses ineffable sadness. It's a heartbreaking moment, when the audience knows that you have never been happy, that children and marriage always got in the way, but that you can hardly imagine any other life. It really is a breathtaking performance.

But, oh, the movie that surrounds you. It's a wreck. Writer/director Jane Anderson, making her feature debut, conducts with a great deal of energy, and keeps everything peppy - the movie has an undeniable flow. But it's all too damn cheerful, like no-one except for you realized that this was a tragic story. Indeed, with the energy and "gee-whiz, you sure can triumph over adversity, Evelyn!" tone, the film seems to frankly endorse the down-home simple life of a small town in the 1950's, when a woman should be damn proud just to have a family that loves her. Compared to the eviscerations of that period we see in Far from Heaven and The Hours, this isn't just disappointing, it's regressive.

Not helping matters at all is Woody Harrelson, who tries gamely to play your husband, but ends up being such a goofy, inept loser, that we want to forgive him all of his raging alcoholism and abusive tendencies. Angela's Ashes proved that you can have a father who wastes money on booze as both a sympathetic figure and a villain. This film has no such edge - Harrelson is a clown, and his danger is always swept away by his weepy apologies.

You've made great films before, in edgy roles (The Big Lebowski! Boogie Nights! Short Cuts!), and I know you'll do it again. But please hurry. We miss you, Julianne. Come back to us.