Quiz Lady Parent Guide
A standout cast ably mixes pathos and comedy in this sometimes patchy tale.
Parent Movie Review
Emotionally numb after years of parental neglect, Anne Yum (Awkwafina) has subsided into a life of grey, cubicle-limited monotony. She only comes alive when her favorite game show airs on television. Sitting on the couch next to her pug dog, Linguini, Anne rapid fires correct answers to every question on “Can’t Stop the Quiz”. Anxious introvert that she is, Anne can’t imagine playing the game for real, but life has a funny way of turning upside down…
Anne’s life goes off balance with a phone call from the seniors’ residence where her mother resides. Ms. Yum has gone AWOL and is feeding her gambling addiction with a trip to Macao, China’s answer to Las Vegas. Anne’s older sister, Jenny (Sandra Oh) appears on the scene, convinced that her mother is dead. Being both unemployed and unhoused, Jenny soon makes herself at home at Anne’s place, bringing chaos, flakiness, and boundless optimism in her wake. When the sisters learn that their mother left behind a sizeable debt to her bookie - and he is determined to collect it - Jenny decides that the best way to find the money is for Anne to play and win her favorite quiz show. There’s no doubt Anne has the mental ability, but can she overcome the ghosts of the past to become a trivia titan?
Quiz Lady is a comedy and not a tragedy so the plot’s ultimate destination is never in doubt. The ending is charming but director Jessica Yu is smart enough to make the journey painful as well as comedic. Anne and Jenny both carry scars from their unstable childhoods and their own complex relationship. As Jenny comes up with one zany idea after another, dragging Anne out of her narrow comfort zone, the sisters are forced to confront their own coping mechanisms and self defeating behaviors.
Mixing pathos and comedy takes a good script cast and strong cast. Quiz Lady nails the latter, with Awkwafina and Sandra Oh delivering standout performances. Both women are funny, Awkwafina with a dry, dark wit, and Sandra Oh overflowing with high test looniness. Even Will Ferrell, whom I normally dislike on screen, imbues game show host Terry McTeer with empathy and reflexive courtesy. As for the script, it can be patchy, with jokes that don’t always land and a couple of scenes that are more cringey than funny. It has a good heart and genuine affection for its characters, and that’s enough to make it work.
What falls flat in this movie is the negative content. The comedic violence isn’t a problem and the profanity clocks in at a PG-13 level with a single sexual expletive and a mix of scatological curses and minor profanities. The real problem here is drug use. There is an extended scene where one character abuses prescription medications, having drug trips that are graphically depicted on screen. It’s supposed to be funny, but I’m betting that most parents will respond as did the Motion Picture Association, which slapped a Restricted rating on the movie thanks to the drug use. This is particularly frustrating because Quiz Lady has the potential to be a fine PG-13 movie, giving audiences messages about sibling relationships, forgiveness, tenacity, loyalty, self-respect, assertiveness, and overcoming fear. There’s some good stuff here and it’s too bad that prescription drug misuse is being played for laughs, because in the real world that isn’t funny.Directed by Jessica Yu. Starring Awkwafina, Sandra Oh, Will Ferrell. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release November 3, 2023. Updated November 10, 2023
Watch the trailer for Quiz Lady
Rating & Content Info
Why is Quiz Lady rated R? Quiz Lady is rated R by the MPAA for some drug use and language.
Violence: Parents yell off screen; one demands a divorce. A character is hit by a car in the background of a scene but is uninjured. A woman is thrown into a car trunk against her will. Two characters fight in a moving car, resulting in dangerous driving and a near accident. People throw things at a woman who winds up with a dislocated wrist. A woman tackles another character and drops her to the floor. A man grabs a woman in a chokehold and threatens to break her arms. A woman kicks a man.
Sexual Content: Someone briefly describes himself as a “sexual cannibal”.
Profanity: The script contains a single sexual expletive, four scatological curses, a few anatomical terms, a handful of minor profanities, and approximately two dozen terms of deity. A crude term for women is used on a couple of occasions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character misuses prescription anxiety medications and gets high. She also takes another unnamed medication which acts as a depressant.
Other: Characters repeatedly refer to constipation and defecation which involves the use of a scatological term in a non-swearing context.
Page last updated November 10, 2023
Quiz Lady Parents' Guide
How did the behavior of their parents influence Anne and Jenny as adults? What beliefs hold Anne back from trying to have a more fulfilling life? What does Jenny want to do with her life? What holds her back? How do misperceptions or inaccurate memories influence the women and their relationships? How do the sisters help each other achieve their individual goals?
Related home video titles:
For an absorbing look at game shows, you should watch the classic Quiz Show, a drama based on a real life scandal.
A young man in Mumbai hopes that a game show will be his route out of poverty in Slumdog Millionaire.
For other movies about sisters, you can try In Her Shoes, Little Women (the 1994 or 2019 versions), Pride & Prejudice, Fiddler on the Roof, Sense & Sensibility, and family favorites, Frozen, Ramona & Beezus, and The Parent Trap.