Monday, October 25, 2021

Zola: Movie Review

Unique, compelling and entertaining.
Settle in and let Zola tell you a story, but don’t get comfortable. It’s a story about why she and “this bitch here fell out.” It’s a mostly true story (more on that later) based on the tweets by A’Ziah King, and we’re just going to go ahead and assume this is the first movie to be based on a viral tweet thread, but an epic tweet thread in which Zola tells her side of a story which really should be going in court documents.   2021

Directed by: Janicza Bravo

Screenplay by: Janicza Bravo and Jeremy O. Harris

Starring: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough

Zola (Taylour Paige) is a waitress at Hooters; Stefanie (Riley Keough) is a customer and immediately propositions her to become a stripper based on her gorgeous assets. “I’m beautiful. You’re beautiful. We’re beautiful bitches.” It’s easy to believe Zola because Keough’s Stefani is this mile-a-minute hurricane, a rush of charisma and platitudes said with such ferociousness that she has to be genuine. She’s also the type of character you have to believe is real because if Zola made her up, nobody would believe her. Paige’s Zola is this brave, confident firestorm who will follow Stefani because you know she’ll be able to get herself out if insanity arises – if only she could have predicted the level of insanity Stefani was going to present to her.

The film has weird pacing – everything is quick; the dialogue is fast, scenes advance in the blink of an eye, and yet for so much of it nothing appears to be happening. It’s essentially made in the style of a tweet thread for better and worse, but mostly it’s for the better. Regardless of the weird pacing, Zola has a very unique and engaging style. I loved the music choices, the editing fits the style, and I absolutely loved the hair and makeup choices – the actresses have absolutely been transformed into these two very unique and brash characters, but it also fits the worlds they inhabit and the worlds they want to inhabit. A key to help you in following these characters: Zola is all for making money as a stripper, but is more at home waitressing; Stefani quickly goes from stripping to prostitution and sex-trafficking.

So, yeah, sex-trafficking. Let’s discuss the “mostly true story” part. A’Ziah King admits she made up a few aspects, to make it more entertaining. The film keeps them in, and they do notch up the insanity factor of the end. I think it hurts the overall film. They detract from the very real aspects which is sex-trafficking, that part of the story almost gets glossed over just to be even more high-octane. We as a society shouldn’t be glossing over that part.

Stefani also gets to tell her side of the story, but it only takes a minute because Stefani’s side is 99% opposite, and therefore a complete lie.

Janicza Bravo has crafted a unique, compelling, and entertaining (but insane) story with two provocative characters and star-making performances.