Quiz Lady | Review by: Amanda Guarragi
When growing up, many things can stay with you and shape the person you become. The relationships between parents and children can sometimes be strained, and the children begin to rely on other forms of connectivity through film, television and books. In Quiz Lady, a gameshow-obsessed woman named Anne Yum (Awkwafina) and her estranged sister Jenny (Sandra Oh) work together to help cover their mother’s gambling debt. From a young age, Anne loved watching a quiz show hosted by Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell). And for that half hour every night, similar to tuning in for Jeopardy, Anne felt at peace. Director Jessica Yu set the relationship between Anne, Jenny and her mother at the beginning to show the disconnect within the family unit, only for audiences to connect with Jenny on a personal level when watching her favourite show because that was the only thing she had that was hers.
We see that Anne had no stability at home because her mother was a gambling addict and was constantly dating someone new. Unfortunately for Anne, her sister fell into the same erratic behaviour as she would jump from one new idea to the next. The only source of stability was answering all those questions correctly with Terry McTeer. Anne ended up living on her own and far away from her sister. She had put her mother in a retirement home and was comfortable with her life. It wasn’t until her mother escaped the retirement home and ended up with a gambling debt. Here is where the story written by Jen D’Angelo became predictable. To settle the debt for her mother, Jenny and Anne try to get on the quiz show to win money. The journey there should have been more entertaining if the story was going to be that predictable, but sadly, it fell flat.
The film is unique because Sandra Oh and Awkwafina take each other’s roles that they could have effortlessly played. The two of them have become typecast; one for being known for dramatic pieces and the other for her comedic chops. Here, they switch, and maybe that is what felt so jarring. Awkwafina was the reserved straight character, while Oh was the off-the-wall, comedic relief. At some points, they worked off each other once they needed to prepare for the quiz show. The strength lies in the emotional growth of their relationship, which could have been developed more throughout the film. Instead, Yu chose to reserve that towards the end of the film to create a sweet moment between them. The road trip to the studio in California worked for what it was, but the humour did fall flat. Comedy is personal, and the humour could work for others.
Quiz Lady has a great duo in Oh and Awkwafina that they carry the film with their chemistry. Even though some jokes did not land and the humour wasn’t the strongest, the rekindled sisterly bond was heartwarming enough. The predictability of this story was the main issue because it did not leave room for that anticipation to want to see this through with Anne and Jenny. It played into the same road trip comedy tropes, and because the dialogue was stale, it was hard to go along with what was happening. The film also loses its footing in the middle once they go on the road trip and experience obstacles along the way. Even though the film is only 103 minutes, it felt like it dragged to get to the final show. Once they did get to the quiz show, the resolution was heartfelt. The way Anne worked through her anxiety and fear of being the centre of attention for once was rewarding.
Review by: Amanda Guarragi
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