Zola Movie Review
After decades of video game adaptations failing spectacularly, the first ever movie based on a series of tweets—no, not kidding—is actually, you know, pretty damn good.
Zola, about a black stripper who meets a crazy white stripper and then makes a poor decision to go on a road trip with said stripper (and a man who may or may not be her pimp... ok, he's her pimp) to Florida, is a dramatization of an at least partially true bonkers story. The kind you really can’t make up.
Janicza Bravo directs and co-writes this frenetic comedy-drama from studio A24, and the only reason I point out the movie is from A24 is that because of course it is from A24. Stylistically it feels like something from the youngish company’s playbook, and I mean that as a compliment through and through.
Zola snapshots a single weekend in the life of the title character (who is based on original tweeter A’Ziah King, who is clearly a much better storyteller than I ever will be), which involves all kinds of weird and sketchy situations and characters. It’s funny, twisted, and simply offbeat, but in a clever, give-zero-fucks kind of way. Taylour Paige rocks it in the lead role, knotting herself into the streetwise but maybe not wise-wise Zola, while Riley Keough chews scenery as the expressive and not-at-all-wise Stefani. Colman Domingo and Nicholas Braun round out the aces cast, Domingo breathing fire in a love-to-hate-him role and Braun, best known for playing the idiot cousin in Succession, playing an equally idiotic and amusing character here.
As fiery and fluid as Zola is—Bravo doesn’t waste a minute—there’s something about it that doesn’t feel full; when the weekend snapshot is over and the end credits role, there’s not quite as much to the destination as there was to the journey getting there. Zola is fun in the moment, and a good movie through and through, but doesn’t entirely blast you away in the way you’d expect or hope for. Still, highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.