TWO of top Asian actresses working in Hollywood today are teamed up in the rollicking comedy, “Quiz Lady”: Sandra Oh and Awkwafina.
Sandra Oh is Korean-Canadian best known for hit series like “Grey’s Anatomy” (where she did 9 seasons), “Killing Eve” (4 seasons) and the most recent is “The Chair”.
Awkwafina (real name: Nora Lum) is Chinese-Korean and first gained fame as a rapper. Then she hit it big as a comedian in movies like “Crazy Rich Asians”, “Ocean’s 8”, “Jumanji 2” and “Shang Chi”.
In “Quiz Lady”, they play sisters: Sandra as Jenny and Awkwafina as Anne. Sandra is known for her dramatic roles on TV while Awkwafina is best remembered as the rambunctious friend in “Crazy Rich Asians”. But their screen personas are reverse in the movie.
They’re both born in America and both have an unhappy childhood. Their single mom is so irresponsible and a habitual gambler. Sandra left home as a teenager and tried several careers where she all failed. She is now hoping to earn money from suing a restaurant for a fishbone that she says choked her.
Anne is left with their mom who she has taken to a nursing home. A nerd and a loner, she has a regular job in an office where she doesn’t associate with anyone and prefers to just keep to herself.
She is devoted only to her dog, Linguini, and to her favorite TV show, a quiz show titled “Can’t Stop the Quiz” which she watches every night. She has memorized all the spiels of its host, Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell), who she has seen growing old in the show.
Anne gets a call from the home where her mom stays saying she has ran away and went to Macau with her new boyfriend. Worse, she gambled and left a debt of $80,000 to a loan shark who steals Linguini and tells Anne she can only get her old dog back after she has paid the full amount.
Jenny, a trainwreck, suddenly returns to Anne as she has no other place to stay in and practically lives in her car. She says the only way they can get that kind of money is if Anne would join her fave quiz show and win big.
Earlier, Jenny secretly recorded Anne while answering all the questions in the quiz show correctly. She then uploaded it online and it went viral, making Anne popular as the Quiz Lady. Even the people behind the quiz show have also become interested in her.
But the introverted Anne is just horrified by the idea of people looking at her on TV. Jenny has to literally kidnap her to bring her to the TV station in Philadelphia. And even there, Anne gets cold feet and wants to go home.
All this is great excuse for the two top comedians to interact with a terrific cast of supporting players led by Will Ferrell as the quiz host. Looks like they had a blast while working with each other.
Awkwafina has a touching moment with Will as he gives her some valuable advice in a room where hundreds of bow ties used by Will in the show is displayed on its walls.
Director Jessica Yu also gets great support from Jason Schwatzman as the quiz show’s current champion who tries to belittle Anne, Holland Taylor as Anne’s grumpy next door neighbor who she brings to Philadelphia with her, Tony Hale as an impersonator of Benjamin Franklin, and the Asian actors who play the gangsterish loan shark and his friends who turn out to be not so mean, after all.
The film can be funny with its physical comedy but it is also tender-hearted as the sisters eventually try to resolve their differences. A hilarious sequence shows Anne panicking before the show starts and Jenny gives her some pills that turn out to be hallucinogens.
When she starts getting high and imagines things, Jenny gives her another set of pills to calm her down and she does well in front of the camera. In the end, all’s well that ends well for the happy ending of a comedy that is quite kooky and entertaining from start to end.