In Quiz Lady, a brilliant but tightly wound, gameshow-obsessed young woman, Anne (Awkwafina), and her estranged, train-wreck of a sister Jenny (Sandra Oh), must work together to help cover their mother’s gambling debts. When Anne’s beloved dog is kidnapped, they set out on a wild, cross-country trek to get the cash the only way they know how: by turning Anne into a bona-fide gameshow champion.
Quiz Lady is a winning road comedy featuring Awkwafina and Sandra Oh, two semi-estranged sisters with a ten year age gap between them, who travel cross country to be on a Jeopardy like quiz show to get the ransom money to get their pug back
Oh plays Jenny, the 40ish irresponsible, wandering, naïve dreaming rich big sister. Awkwafina is Annie, the younger, introverted, chance and change averse younger one, who lives in their childhood home and has a since little girl Rain Man obsession with a quiz show, hosted by Terry McNeely (Will Ferrell in amiable character mode) Their old age home mother has left the country for Macau with her boyfriend, leaving a frustrated loan shark (Jon Park) demanding that the Anne pay back the mom’s $81,000.00 in gambling debts to him or he will kill their beloved pug. The quickest way to get the money, the two believe, is to take advantage of Anne’s savant like knowledge of game show trivia and win against the impeding all game and money winner of the show (Jason Schwartzman) that comforted and obsessed her for more than twenty years.
Oh delivers a delightful and nuanced performance that keeps her character from falling into the caricature trap. She easily manages Jenny’s twin needs- money and some kind of reconciliation with Anne, who rightly feels Jenny selfishly abandoned her to follow losing dreams and shirk the responsibility of their taking care of her ailing mom.
Quiz Lady manages to get that balance and chemistry that this kind of sibling road trip comedy needs to succeed. It wisely reverses Oh’s and Awkwafina’s usual roles in films. Oh, a dramatic actress, now plays a comic role. Awkwafina gives up her comic persona for a more serious one. She’s always finding the comic and sympathetic notes in Anne’s whining, the ones that show her hard side yielding to her softer, forgiving self, shows that she really want to change and forgive, but still keep her essential identity.
The two easily forge a believable sisterly harmony, with subtle notes of sibling rivalry. Dramatically, Oh has the hardest role, one where her dramatic training and charisma allows her to find her balanced compromise with her screen sibling. She knows how to real her emotions choice in so they feel right and natural for the character. More importantly, she knows how to imbue the kookiness with an emotional depth.
The ending shows the two actors at their finest. The charades needed to win rely on the other to recognize the things that once and still hold them together. The things that will forge new future sisterhood.
Quiz Lady gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+. It’s streaming on Hulu.
Adrian Peng Correia
- September 9, 2023(TIFF)
- November 3, 2023(United States)