Zola is a 2021 movie based on the 2015 Twitter reality story by a stripper named Zola about her wild cross-country road trip to Florida that turned out to be way more than she expected.
The movie begins as Zola (Taylour Paige) meets fellow stripper Stefani (Riley Keough) in the diner where Zola works in Detroit. Stefani invites Zola to strip with her that night and the two form a fast friendship.
So fast that when Stefani asks Zola to come with her to Florida to strip at a club where Stefani swears her friends made $5000 a night, Zola doesn’t hesitate…even when the two are joined by Stefani’s boyfriend Derek (Nicholas Braun), and mysterious male roommate named X (Colman Domingo).
Zola doesn’t start doubting things until they check into a run down hotel in Tampa. But somehow Stefani has an answer for everything, and Zola goes along with Stefani to the club.
Zola soon finds out X is actually Stefani’s pimp, and the real reason she was brought cross-country was to prostitute herself to make cash for X. And that’s just the beginning of Zola’s weekend.
What enfolds during the remainder of the story’s 48 hours includes prostitution, gunfights, attempted murder, and even a suicide attempt, plus so much nudity (including full-frontal male genitalia close-ups) one might mistake this movie for porn with more of a plot.
I enjoyed the buddy aspect between Zola and Stefani, twisted as it may be. It’s such a weird story to begin with, and I would’ve enjoyed seeing more of this than the extended sex scenes. I get that nudity in mainstream film is considered edgy, but the story had so many crazy elements those lengthy explicit scenes felt more like filler than crucial to the story.
Paige and Keough had a good energy in scenes together, and I also have to give Domingo props for making X exceptionally creepy and menacing.
Director Janicza Bravo does a lot with the flimsy material of a Twitter story, and she also takes some creative license with what happened and how it is presented. But in the end, it just feels like something is missing in making this story cohesive on screen.
I’m giving Zola a 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you like raw slice of life films based on true stories, give this one a try.
Director: Janicza Bravo
Cast: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo
[images courtesy A24]
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