Quiz Lady, serious AND slapstick

Sandra Oh and Awkwafina in Quiz Lady

Quiz Lady is parts broad, slapstick physical comedy and parts heartfelt sister relationship and bonding. Part of the comedy, even before the story starts, is that Sandra Oh and Awkwafina play against type. Sandra Oh is the outrageous, undisciplined one. Awkwafina is the anxious, serious one who knows trivia about everything.

Quiz Lady, directed by Jessica Yu, turns the two women loose and they go all out in a big way. Their performances, especially Sandra Oh, are big, Big, BIG! It’s funny while being grounded and serious about sisterhood and family.

Sandra Oh and Awkwafina on the poster for Quiz Lady

Anne (Awkwafina) has been watching the same quiz show every day since childhood. She knows all the answers. She works in an office and is invisible to most people around her and tries to never be looked at.

Jenny (Sandra Oh) is 10 years older and left Anne at home with their sorry excuse for a mother as soon as she was 18. Mom ran up $80,000 in gambling debt and ran away from her nursing care. When the nursing home folks called Anne and Jenny to tell them, they said, “We lost your mother.”

Both sisters took this to mean that mom died. Jenny suddenly shows back up wanting to know what she’ll inherit from mom. Nothing, because mom is in Macao.

The guy mom owed big bucks to shows up and demands payment from Anne. He steals her dog and won’t give it back until he’s paid.

Jenny decides her sister should go on the quiz show and make a ton of money. Anne, however, is anxious and inhibited and not television quiz show material. Getting her there and ready is a crazy trip.

Holland Taylor in Quiz Lady

Anne’s grouchy next door neighbor Francine (Holland Taylor) gets in on the action. She goes to California with Anne and gets to meet her celebrity crush. She thinks it’s Alan Cumming but it’s actually Paul Reubens.

Will Ferrell in Quiz Lady

The impossibly nice quiz show host Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell) is Anne’s celebrity crush. When she wins a spot on the show and gets to meet him they share some special moments. Her competition on the quiz show is long-running winner Ron Heacock (Jason Schwartzman). He wants to be impossibly nice like McTeer but it just ain’t so.

It’s always worthy of celebration in Hollywood when two Asian women get to be the lead characters in anything, perhaps especially a comedy. The chemistry works with them in the overblown moments and the more serious ones. Everything is a joke. They make a joke out of the Asian stereotypes and tropes. The dog kidnappers are a joke. The hotel clerk (Tony Hale) who thinks he’s Ben Franklin is a joke. Jenny is a running joke of a person. It’s a silly movie.

The film is on Hulu.

4 thoughts on “Quiz Lady, serious AND slapstick”

  1. I just loved this movie! And I appreciate that you gave props to Awkwafina –most reviews either ignore her or say that she wasn’t very good compared to Sandra Oh–who admittedly is LIT!

  2. christopher swaby

    this movie was just so funny and heartwarming. i get why many reviews focused on Sandra Oh – i NEVER think of her as a comedic actress. she delivers here. but oh my goodness, Awkwafina is amazing. she can do comedy, she can do drama – she has such range. and i liked Will Farrell doing Will Farrell but in such an understated way. this was a fun movie.

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