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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Zola' Review: Road Trip To Florida Turns Into Something Wild & Dangerous

Riley Keough and Taylour Paige standing face-to-face

Because you already logged in, there's no need to even ask if you're interested in hearing a story about how I and this movie fell out at first but ended up somewhat vibing together later. Based on a series of viral tweets by A'Ziah ''Zola'' King and David Kushner's Rolling Stone article about them, Zola is being helmed by director Janicza Bravo who also co-write it with Jeremy O. Harris. They introduce viewers to title character Zola (Taylour Paige), a waitress and stripper who meets an exuberant stripper colleague Stefani (Riley Keough). Two of them end up going on a road trip with Stefani's boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun) and ''roommate'' X (Colman Domingo), planning to go dance at lucrative strip clubs in Florida before the trip turns out not to be what Zola imagined it'd be as true colours of Stefani and X are revealed.

It always feels slightly criminal to recommend a movie that appears incomplete in the beginning and has a jarring ending because it's sort of the same situation as when you say that you need to watch seven episodes of a show before it gets good. You get a feeling that the film would be more attentive if it had saved moments where it tells you that the story is based on tweets by Zola and one perspective change is based on a Reddit thread until the credits start rolling. It's a rollercoaster ride after all with wild turns, those are then just less exciting because you know how the characters are after the movie's events. Even inventive sound design would've been nice to understand afterwards because it plays with phones, Twitter, texts and notifications; fortunately it is very carefully baked into the movie so it compliments the brash tone anyway.

Something to hold your interest during those troubling times is the acting which really shows what Bravo can get out of her cast. Keough and to lesser extent Braun obviously have the juicy roles since the characters steal their personalities from African-American culture (deliciously cringeworthy) but Paige is just as good if not better in the lead role because she adds a sense of realism to what is otherwise an outrageous story, making you instantly believe the characters. Domingo and his character is the biggest surprise of the bunch, though that twist is better left to be seen on your own as it really changes the stakes in the film. From that point on, Bravo and her vision really start firing on all cylinders until the very end that isn't quite as creative or thought-provoking, mostly due to the editing by Joi McMillon that seems uncertain where to leave the audience and when it wants to let characters continue their trip.

Smileys: Acting, sound design

Frowneys: Editing

Are you gonna make movies like this? Bet they'd make some shmoney, baby.


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