November 3, 2023 / Disney+
Starring: Awkwafina, Sandra Oh, Jason Schwartzman, Holland Taylor, Tony Hale, Will Ferrell
Directed By: Jessica Yu
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.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Quiz Lady is a killer fun time thanks to the brilliant comedic pairing of Sandra Oh and Awkwafina who light up the screen with their outstanding chemistry, helping to create a hilarious and heartfelt R rated comedy that is going to be an instant winner with viewers.
Sandra Oh has been a national treasure of Canada for years, after incredible performances in Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve and Sideways; while Awkwafina has been a dazzling star in recent years with memorable roles in Jumanji: The Next Level, The Farewell and Crazy Rich Asians. Never would I have expected Oh and Awkwafina to share the screen together in a comedy, even less so playing sisters, but Quiz Lady gives audiences the team-up that they never knew they needed. Oh and Awkwafina are a comedic tour de force, making this streaming comedy a hilarious and heartfelt watch thanks to their performances, sure to delight audiences from the comfort of their own home.
For her entire life, Anne has loved watching her regular nightly game show on television, answering all the questions from the comfort of her living room. Her sister Jenny has had a wilder life, flying by the seat of her pants as the family’s more irresponsible child. But with their mother’s gambling debts stacking up and no way for Anne and Jenny to pay them off, Jenny submits Anne to be a contestant on her favourite game show in hopes that the prize money will solve their mother’s financial troubles and get the mobsters off their back who are looking to collect.
It comes as no surprise, but the highlight of Quiz Lady is the lead performances of Oh and Awkwafina. Both of them are celebrated actresses in their own regards, Oh with her extensive filmography of memorable roles, and Awkwafina with her genius comedic talents in films like Crazy Rich Asians. Though, what makes their performances so great in this film is that they are playing against the audience’s expectations. Awkwafina is Anne, the logical, grounded and shy sister, playing against the comedic relief, outrageous best friend role she normally is in. It allows Awkwafina to develop a more sentimental character, working through Anne’s past and her troubled relationship with her sister Jenny.
Oh, normally playing the well put together and proper character, is Jenny, the character you would expect Awkwafina to be playing. She is a comedic genius in the role, delivering laugh out loud moment after moment, quickly moving from one gag to another with a fast pace and hyperactive energy that steals the entire film. At the same time, Oh creates a character that is relatable to the audience with her character’s overwhelming heart, that will instantly remind you of someone you know as we all have someone in our lives like Jenny.
As a pairing, Oh and Awkwafina make for one of the best comedic partnerships of the year, which carries the film. There is an ease between both actresses that lends to a light, witty, and enjoyable banter between them, while they craft a deeper sisterly bond that creates the heart of the film’s story. Their standout moment is without question their charade act during the climax of the film, fully allowing both of their comedic abilities to soar as well as the bond they have created as actresses working together on this film.
Being a studio comedy, it comes as no surprise that there is an all-star supporting cast of comedic talent. Will Ferrell is delightful as Terry McTeer, the charming host of Anne’s beloved game show. It’s a performance that pays homage to the great game hosts like Alex Trebek, utilizing Ferrell’s comedic talents with his quirky personality. But compared to his usual, over the top performances, it's a grounded and endearing performance from Ferrell that creates some wonderful moments throughout the film that is without a doubt one of his best performances in years. Jason Schwartzman is great as the slimy reigning champion of the game show, while Holland Taylor is stellar as Anne’s elderly neighbour Francine, helping to deliver some of the film’s funniest moments. Though, there is one surprise appearance in the film from an actor that we recently lost (and one we lost far too soon). It gives a great payoff to one of the long running jokes of the film that creates a beautiful and hilarious closing moment to the film that audiences won’t soon forget, but also acts as a wonderful farewell to that actor that captures their spirit in one small scene.
There is no doubt that the performances make the film, but there is a great story and script for them to work with. Jen D’Angelo’s screenplay has all the hallmarks of R rated comedy with raunchy comedic moments, including an acid trip drug sequence, quirky hotel staff at the hotel Anne and Jenny check into, and scrapping between siblings. Though, it is the sibling dynamic and relationship that D’Angelo writes that creates the beating heart of the film. The relationship between Anne and Jenny is complex, as are all worthwhile relationships in life, each struggling to accept the other and all their flaws, allowing both characters to go on a transformational journey over the course of the film. At the same time, director Jessica Yu, Oh and Awkwafina infuse D’Angelo’s screenplay with a cultural awareness, speaking to their experiences as Asian American women, further enhancing the story and allowing it to stand out from the majority of R rated comedies.
It’s hard to pass on a good comedy, especially one that has wholesome character arcs with an R rating. That is exactly what Quiz Lady has to offer, and it is guaranteed to have you laughing in your living room watching it. Led by two stellar performances from Sandra Oh and Awkwafina, with a great supporting cast and an entertaining screenplay, Quiz Lady delivers the laugh out loud moments that audiences are expecting from such a comedy while surprising them with a great story about sisterhood.