Television has been a trusted companion in our daily routine for years. Turned on on generalist channels, her voices became a non-binding soundtrack, a speaking, but never judging, witness of domestic and/or work activities. Yet, for a single soul, that frame of pixels is much more than just a form of pure entertainment. It is a direct bridge to another, alternative dimension; a portal that lifts and distances one from an existence that becomes an unbearable burden, an incessant scream.
As we will point out in this Quiz Lady reviewavailable on Disney+the quiz show for the protagonist Anne (Awkwafina). Can’t Stop the Quiz it goes beyond a mere television appointment; she is a temporary breath of fresh air, a suspension of that reality that wants her to be the daughter of divorced parents, the sister of an ambitious and self-centered girl, and a child called too early to become a responsible adult. Episode after episode, that game becomes both a source of knowledge and a saving and palliative cure for a pain kept latent between ever thicker layers of notions to learn and curiosities to assimilate. And it will be precisely in the context of that constant back and forth that Anne’s past will return like a tidal wave, to be exorcised in a catharsis in television format.
Quiz Lady: the plot
Anne and Jenny are sisters, but they couldn’t be further apart from each other. Anne is shy and reserved; Jenny is definitely more outgoing and chaotic. When they discover that their mother has accumulated a huge gambling debt, they must find a way to pay it off so they can also get Linguini, their beloved dog, held hostage. The two women are penniless but the only resource they seem to have is the talent and passion that Anne has for Can’t Stop the Quizgame show hosted by his idol Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell). Her excessive shyness, however, prevents her from participating, if it weren’t for Jenny’s resourcefulness and stubbornness who forces her sister in every way to believe in herself and give herself a chance. Now it’s up to Anne to work the miracle and transform herself into a quiz show champion so as to win all the money they need and rise from the ashes.
Engine, lights… and action!
Directed by Jessica Yu and scripted by Jen D’Angelo, Quiz Lady is on the one hand a dramatic look at dysfunctional families illuminated by always-on television screens – symbols of an America that seeks perfection, hiding the rottenness within the walls of the house – and on the other all-female comedy of two sisters poles apart, launched into a road movie that is born and ends in the ranks of a house that becomes a zone of comfort and pain, and a television studio elevated to the rebirth and catharsis of a suffering hidden for years. She has something buddy movie steeped in the nineties, Quiz Lady. With that family drama made up of unsaid things, secrets and feelings kept latent, vitriolic jokes, hilarious gags and gimmicks that are not always functional (and working), there are constant echoes of works like Rain Mano The black sheep by Penelope Spheeris. But the desaturated and vintage tones of films like the one from 1996, in Yu’s work leave room for bright colours, illuminated by a dazzling light, the same as a television studio surrounded by a merely fictitious light-heartedness, which contrasts, in a completely dichotomous, with the dull, dull and flat nuances of a woman like Anne.
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Anne’s is a soul that intends to remain anonymous, invisible, a necessity perfectly returned by Awkwafina, with a performance of subtraction (except for a few marked expressions, especially of the mouth) and a hunched, closed proxemics, with arms folded and gazes turned downwards. Aspiring to a total completeness of union between Yin and Yang, the interpretation of Sandra Oh it is instead exuberant, full of colours, idiosyncratic; on her paper, her Jenny is born as the visible side of a satellite that revolves around a sister planet, influencing it with the tides of her narcissistic egocentrism and fragile insecurity. Subject easy to fall intooveractingon stage the mix of excesses that inhabit the character of Jenny, is managed by Oh with such a dose of professionalism and irresistible humour, so as to save her from being repulsive, to also be engaging, irresistible, but above all convincing.
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The imbalance of the bitter smile
In this continuous clash between symbolisms, scenographic elements and opposite characters, Quiz Lady it is a game of balances; but it is precisely in this path held together by a thin thread that the steps become uncertain and Yu’s direction becomes incapable of managing the nature of the events at its disposal, failing in that long-awaited sense of balance. Comedy and drama don’t always go hand in hand, but they argue, they go in cahoots, both eager to steal the scene and the dominance of the genre. Not anymore dramedy, Quiz Show he is a hybrid with a substantial, strong body, held together by acting performances that like caryatids support the weight of a continuous change of soul, but weak inside. An intentionally multi-layered content of different emotions, interspersed and characterized by childhood traumas, constant disillusionments, broken dreams, distorted or frozen memories in the space of a mind that has grown too quickly, conveyed with an insecure manner by the director. But if the car of Quiz Lady manages not to fall off the cliff, it is thanks to that enviable alchemy between the two leading actresses, body-lenders and soul-lenders of two different sisters, who in the continuous process of self-sabotage find a glimmer of personal and mutual salvation. A tug of war highlighted by the camera itself, which captures them forcibly united, underlining the dichotomies, reinforcing the actorial divergences.
Mimes the memory, exorcises the pain
In a passing of the baton accomplished on the track of time, slapstick moments from the present give way to flashbacks from the past with a profound and emotionally destabilizing content, however undermined by a first-level narration not always capable of emphasizing the sentimental significance of the past, relegating such moments to mere fillers from the point of view of narration and total understanding of the work. But it is in the moment in which the past meets, to mix with the present, that in the full climax of the television quiz the film finds its strong point, gathering in the description of a moment all the beauty that has been lost over the course of the movie.
In Jessica Yu’s quiz show quiz ladies are neither winners nor losers; they are just two women who conclude their evolutionary arc with simple humor and human fragility, hiding behind loaded expressions, broad gestures and clothes that reduplicate their mood, a discourse that extends from the personal to the universal. It won’t be an exact or even winning answer, Quiz Lady, but in it the constant reverberation of a reality close to that experienced beyond the television screen survives; a two-dimensional reality, to which other realities such as Anne’s blindly rely; they are existences that offer their hope, their survival as a gift to that cathode ray tube, suspended in a unique, random, yet so real moment, made of pure, simple, salvation.
We conclude this review of Quiz Lady by underlining how the film directed by Jessica Yu fails to materialize the intentions and ideas behind it. Between a buddy movie on the road and a dramedy supported by dysfunctional families, the film soon loses its balance, finding itself wandering through multiple and mutant natures, without choosing which ones to identify with and develop in them in a confident and concrete manner. Keeping the entire product afloat is the duo of protagonists, Awkwafina skilled in restoring the fragile and insecure nature of her Anne, and Sandra Oh who frees herself from the ghost of Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy to show her more exuberant and fun. A couple so fresh and in perfect harmony that they cancel out and overshadow their masculine shoulders, including Will Ferrell and Tony Hale (Arrested Development’s Buster Bluth).
Because we like it
- The chemistry between Sandra Oh and Awkwafina.
- The use of photography makes Anne’s life a television studio dazzled by a light that makes everything visible, but random.
- The choice to show TV as a palliative remedy against the suffering and traumas of life.
- Sandra Oh’s performance.
- The soundtrack.
- Jason Schwartzman’s performance a little over the top.
- Jessica Yu’s tense and almost insecure direction.
- The lack of harmony between comedy and drama.