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  • S.J.

'Zola' Review

There's no need to even ask if you're interested in hearing a story about how I and this movie fell out first, but ended up vibing together somewhat later, because you already logged in. Based on an article which itself is based on a series of viral tweets by Aziah King, the script of Zola by director Janicza Bravo and co-writer Jeremy O. Harris introduces viewers first to Zola (Taylour Paige), a waitress and stripper who meets an exuberant stripper 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 and 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 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 of Zola and one perspective change is based on a Reddit thread until the credits. 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. Even the inventive sound design would've been nice to understand after because it plays with phones, Twitter, texts and notifications of those; fortunately it is very carefully baked in to the movie so it goes with the tone anyway.

Something to hold your interest during those troubling times is the acting, however, really showing what Bravo can get out her cast. Keough and to lesser extent Braun obviously have the juicy roles since the characters steal their personalities from African-American culture (perfectly cringeworthy) but Paige is just as good if not better in the lead role because she adds reality to otherwise outrageous movie, 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 sensed on your own as it really changed the stakes in the film. From that point on, Bravo and her vision really start firing on all cylinders until the very ending that isn't quite as creative or thought-provoking, mostly due to the editing that seems uncertain where to leave the audience and when it will 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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