It finally happened. First, Twitter became established as a social media platform and breaking news source, but now it has created a narrative for a feature film
“You wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” When Zola (Taylour Paige) utters these words, you know you better buckle up for a bumpy, crazy, hysterical ride.
Zola meets Stefani (Riley Keough) at a restaurant where Zola waitresses. The two click immediately over pole dancing, exchange numbers and the very next day, Stefani invites Zola to Florida for an opportunity to dance in strip clubs there possibly walking away with a wad of cash. Zola agrees and finds herself trapped in the craziest, most unexpected cross-country trip of her life.
Needless to say this film is truly a cautionary tale about who to trust and will make anyone think twice before handing out those digits. Fabulously adapted by director Janicza Bravo and ‘Slave Play’ dramatist Jeremy O. Harris from a barrage of 144 tweets that Detroit waitress/exotic dancer A’Ziah King popped off sharing details of this crazy-as-hell, nightmarish road trip, which went viral and lit up the internet in 2015. Baby, when I tell you this film makes “Hustlers” look like a Disney flick, I do not exaggerate. Feeling somewhat like a marriage between Hustle & Flow and Hustlers, I found myself laughing out loud at the dialogue between this band of misfit characters.
Riley Keough and Taylour Paige are stellar. Paige is the brains and Keough is the young mother willing to do whatever it takes to make sure her kid is taken care of. Their friendship is complicated, heartbreaking and infuriating all at the same time. Nicholas Braun (Derrek) and Colman Domingo are hilarious. Although, Domingo is slightly menacing as Stefani’s ‘special friend.’ Sharing two sides of the same story, the film has a few script issues and I could’ve done without the word ‘bitch’ being used every two seconds. But, I’m aware in the culture of stripping it’s literally like saying ‘hey girl,’ so I got over it fairly quickly. Produced by A24, Zola is bananas. Period. But, like Don Cornelius used to say about Soul Train, ‘it’s the hippest trip in America’ that will have you head spinning like a top.
“It’s funny and unusual and uncomfortable,” says Bravo of King’s highly original story. “It has guts and power in the way that it unfolds. A’Ziah’s tweets felt like the intersection of Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. The text was enigmatic, energized, raw and unfiltered. It seemed to exist on a planet that was just next to ours, somewhere larger than life and deeply saturated.” Audiences will be transfixed while witnessing a story that literally sound too out of pocket to be true – but true and hilariously harsh it is and they will never be the same after its screening.
“This story is a reflection of the Internet, and in a sense it is the Internet,” says Bravo, “It’s a product of growing up with a phone in your hand and a computer in your face. But it’s also about finding freedom through writing without the use of filters. Zola’s story is a love letter to how social media unites us.”