I know the title of my review seems hyperbolic, but truly this is an essential American story, beautifully told. [Incidentally, the fact that in 1994, Forrest Gump won the best picture Oscar, and not Quiz Show, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption or Four Weddings and a Funeral demonstrates the worthlessness of those awards, which evidently prefer telegenic fools to intelligence, verve, drama or comedy.]
In Quiz Show, the cinematography is exquisite, the editing is perfect, the direction interesting and on-point. The characters are archetypes, yet credible and humanized, with unique peculiarities that make them real and relevant.
Father-son relationships are an obsessive motif in American film, but Quiz Show manages to tell one of the most affecting father-son relationships since Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas in I Never Sang for my Father. Ralph Fiennes and Paul Scofield are devastating.
Quiz Show is undeniably entertaining -- some of the early scenes are reminiscent of the college scenes in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, for instance, and the quiz show moments are suspenseful and simply amusing -- but it is also an essential tale about idealism (the American dream) and corruption, facile fame and thankless work, and navigating an ethical middle ground between the two. In discussing current events, I often quote one of the last lines in the film,
"See, I don't think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended... for simply, at long last, telling the truth."
A marvellous movie to see (and own) and view often.