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There are many moments in Quiz Lady that are way too manic and broadly comedic for my taste, but the movie builds towards a poignant feelgood climax that is impossible to resist.

In the picture's first half hour or so I was tempted to completely tune out of Quiz Lady because the film so relentlessly tries to convince you that the hardly original set-up is funny that it goes into an annoying ADD mode.

This isn't just due to the screenplay, which sees lifelong quiz fanatic Awkwafina competing on her favourite game show to pay off her mom's debts to a dognapper. It's also in no small part due to the borderline unwatchable performance of Sandra Oh as the lead character's 'quirky' sister.

I'm not sure what possessed Oh to ham it up with a megaphone in the role, but it backfires spectacularly. The performance is so loud, obnoxious and broad that it nearly drags the whole film down with it.

Luckily as Quiz Lady progresses the focus shifts more towards Awkwafina's much more layered, quietly funny performance and adds in one of the sweetest, gentlest supporting roles of Will Ferrell's career to gradually turn the ship around.

Had you told me after the first thirty minutes that I would be genuinely touched by the saccharine, 'sisterly love' denouement, I would not have believed you, but somehow that's the miracle that Quiz Lady pulls off, even if the film is too uneven to call it a resounding success.

release: 2023

director: Jessica Yu

starring: Awkwafina, Sandra Oh, Will Ferrell, Holland Taylor


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