Jenny (Sandra Oh), a 40-something ball of chaos, is launched in “Quiz Woman” the way in which you would possibly anticipate of somebody whose life financial savings are contingent on a hazardous fish bone-related lawsuit in opposition to a series restaurant known as Choochie’s: off within the distance, skittering heedlessly throughout the road earlier than she’s abruptly struck by a automobile. Naturally, she pops proper again up earlier than having a meltdown over the mechanical entrance to the senior dwelling the place her youthful sister, Anne (Awkwafina), is frustratingly watching from inside.
It’s typically stated that comedic roles are deceptively trickier to play than dramatic ones, and Jenny is the kind of character that would appear rife with potential pitfalls for an actor like Oh: an over-the-top eccentric whose humor can simply fall into caricature. But, “Quiz Woman,” a largely profitable comedy directed by Jessica Yu, is elevated most of all on the shoulders of Oh’s pleasant and nuanced efficiency.
When Jenny reveals up on the senior dwelling, Anne is already fed up. Their mom has run off to Macau to flee an $80,000 debt she owes Ken (Jon Park), a doggy daycare-owning gangster, and Anne naturally would be the one to maintain issues. It’s the way in which issues have been ever since Jenny, who has at all times lived a extra free-spirited, if erratic and unstable, life, exited from their lives and left Anne to maintain their mom.
Remoted and dealing as an workplace drone, Anne’s solely type of solace is a Jeopardy-esque quiz present she’s watched religiously since childhood. When Ken steals Anne’s canine as collateral, Jenny, feeling the surge of her newest pipe dream of changing into a life coach, kidnaps Anne and drives her to an audition for the present within the hopes she’ll win the cash to repay the debt.
Like so many street journey buddy comedies, the effectiveness of the enterprise rests, arguably greater than the writing or route itself, on the stability and chemistry between the central duo. And “Quiz Woman” particularly relies upon a role-reversing gamble: Usually a dramatic actress, Oh is taking part in the freewheeling Jenny, whereas her co-star, Awkwafina, who except for her function in “The Farewell” has largely made her identify as the usually cartoonish comedian reduction (“Loopy Wealthy Asians,” “The Little Mermaid”), is the intense and high-strung Anne.
However the pair finds a simple concord collectively, at the same time as Oh does a lot of the heavy lifting. Whereas Awkwafina’s little-sister flip typically falls into uptight, one-note outbursts, Oh is a charismatic and pure counterbalance because the outsize Jenny. She is aware of when to reel her decisions in and, most essential, imbues Jenny’s kookiness with an emotional depth effervescent simply beneath the floor.
The funniest scene comes towards the tip, when Jenny and Anne play a high-stakes sport of charades on the quiz present. As they hit their stride, the sequence, punctuated by a strikingly tender second that might have rung compelled in lesser arms, floats off the comedic brilliance of Oh, directly pure and ridiculous, as her solutions burst out of her through an instinct that would solely exist by a lifetime of sisterhood.
Rated R for some drug use and language. Working time: 1 hour 39 minutes. Watch on Hulu.