TIFF 2023 | Quiz Lady (Jessica Yu, US) — Special Presentations

By Meg Shields

It’s time to reset the clocks: we’ve got a genuinely delightful American studio comedy on our hands. Rising above its “hmm” status as a direct-to-Hulu original, Quiz Lady is a charming, unpretentious cinematic equivalent of mac ’n cheese. It’s not going to surprise you. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The film follows Anne (Awkwafina), a happily routine-bound office worker who is perfectly content to putter between work and her couch, where her wheezing pug, Linguini, and her favourite TV trivia show await. Meanwhile, Anne’s older sister Jenny (Sandra Oh) couldn’t be more different: a bimbo-fied, chaotic forty-something going on twenty-something who flits about from one passion project to the next. When the sisters’ elderly mother flees the country to escape her gambling debts, her creditors take Linguini hostage. For Jenny, the solution is obvious: send Anne on her beloved quiz show, where her smarts and intimate knowledge of the game will allow them to settle their mother’s debt. Despite her reservations, Anne agrees, and trauma-bonding hijinx ensue.

Featuring some effortlessly well-cast supporting performances from Holland Taylor (as Anne’s cranky neighbour), Jason Schwartzman (as a fame-hungry Quiz Show champ), and Will Ferrell (as No Name Brand Alex Trebek), Quiz Lady may well be the broadest comedy that TIFF has ever programmed. An honest-to-god charmer, Quiz Lady colours within the lines of its genre, but it does a good job doing it. I’ll take “Awkwafina being a genuine movie star for five hundred, Alex.” 

mshields@cinema-scope.com Shields Meg