Quiz Lady REVIEW – Silly & Heartfelt

Put this on if you want something that will make you laugh.

Quiz Lady
Quiz Lady

2023’s served up some pretty decent comedies. We had feel-good comedies like No Hard Feelings and Joy Ride, and Quiz Lady joins them as one of the standouts this year. It’s not highbrow stuff, but it made me laugh a whole lot, due in large part to the hilarious performances from Sandra Oh and Awkwafina.

Anne (Awkwafina) and Jenny (Oh) are sisters, one’s an introvert, the other’s a bubbly extrovert, and they’ve never seen eye-to-eye on things. Anne feels resentful that Jenny left her to deal with their mother, and how she was never a proper big sister to her growing up. Anne’s one constant in life is her dog Linguine, and a quiz show hosted by Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell). She watches every night without fail, with Linguine by her side.

Jenny reenters her life when their mom runs away from the care facility she’s in. She’s also left behind a tremendous debt of $80,000, which the sisters have no way of repaying. Jenny suggests that Anne try out for the quiz show, especially since she’s quite the quiz savant. Despite Anne’s initial reluctance, she finds herself faced with no choice when the creditors deliver certain threats. So now it’s up to Jenny to get her on the show, and to imbue her with a confidence she doesn’t feel.

Oh is always a delight to watch. She kills it both with the physical comedy and line delivery. Her facial expressions are sometimes more than enough to send me into spasms of laughter. There’s one particular set piece in the movie that’s so hilarious and poignant at the same time, and her chemistry with Awkwafina is what makes it so memorable. They’re both playing against type here – Oh usually plays the serious characters, while Awkwafina gets the loud, wacky roles – which is part of the film’s fun. They also look like they’re having a ball of a time.

Ferrell as Terry and Jason Schwartzman as know-it-all Ron Heacock do well in their supporting roles. I think that sometimes we’re so used to the usual over-the-top performances Ferrell dishes out that we forget how good he is as an actor. In lesser hands, the role of Terry would probably be a nothing role, but he manages to make the character this genuine, sincere man, and his one main scene with Anne will definitely strike an emotional chord. There’s also an unexpected cameo at the end of the movie that will move you.

Oh and Awkafina make Jenny and Anne feel like real sisters who have drifted apart. You can feel the pain and hurt in the arguments they have, but there’s also hope. The mother figure is so integral to Asian narratives that it feels so purposeful here that their mother is neglectful and absent. We never seen her at all, even in the flashbacks. Jenny and Anne had different strategies for dealing with a broken home; one escaped while the other withdrew.

The film will feel wholeheartedly relatable for those of us with siblings. Jenny and Anne’s conversations with each other often pull from common memories, or to make fun of family members. It’s the kind of thing siblings do: “Hey, remember the time when you …” It feels very apt then that I watched it with my brothers.

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Quiz Lady
Sandra Oh and Awkafina are absolutely hilarious in this. There's heart and charm to Quiz Lady that makes it a well worth a watch.