Story Details

Cinematic Releases: Zola (2020) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 814 days ago on Entertainment - Courtesy of A24 FilmsOn October 27th, 2015, Detroit based exotic dancer Aziah “Zola” Wells posted a Twitter thread recounting a wild larger-than-life tale of a road trip taken with fellow stripper Jessica which went to Hell and then some really fast.  The thread went viral worldwide and spawned an in-depth Rolling Stone article Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted examining the events unfolding as well as attracting the attention of Hollywood.  In the article, Zola admitted to embellishing some of the more outlandish elements of her account.   Now, six years later due to COVID-19 delays, here is writer-director Janicza Bravo's lush and deliriously entertaining adaptation of the story Zola (or @Zola) which plays even faster and looser with the rules and plausibility than the original Twitter thread did.  Released by A24 and co-produced by Dave Franco, the film stars Taylour Paige as the titular Zola opposite Riley Keough as Stefani, a fellow stripper who invites Zola to join her on a road trip with her boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun) and her friend X (Colman Domingo).  Courtesy of A24 FilmsAs they descend from Detroit to Florida, it turns out X posted photos of Zola and Stefani on a Backpage prostitution ad.  Zola tries to leave but is threatened by X who in reality is Stefani’s pimp.  What follows is a night of “truth” being truly stranger than fiction as well as one of the wildest films released by A24 since Harmony Korine’s hyperkinetic masterpiece Spring Breakers. Visually and sonically the film is stunningly beautiful, lensed in Super 16mm by Ari Wegner giving us some of the lushest uses of the cinematographic process since Todd Haynes’ Carol.  The soundtrack, as it happens, is by none other than Under the Skin wunderkind composer Mica Levi who serves up a wickedly kaleidoscopic electronic score that sizzles and radiates on the soundscape.  All the actors give their all with Riley Keough pulling off the ratchet bad girl vibes with her, at times, indecipherable dialect exceptionally well.  Taylour Paige absolutely knocks it out of the park as the film’s omniscient narrator and heroine of the piece, portraying her as vulnerable but cunning and a quick thinker who has to devise her way out of some pretty pesky situations. While the subject of sex trafficking is indeed a touchy one, Zola deals with it in a way that is understated and never veers toward exploitation.  Rather the film with its comic and hyperactive audiovisual energy and strong performances from all involved paints a bonkers picture of the inner workings of the sex trade from the perspective of one who witnessed (and fabricated) much of it firsthand.  Courtesy of A24 FilmsAs a film it starts out in the mold of Korine’s aforementioned Spring Breakers before gradually growing more harrowing as Zola’s compulsively readable-turned-watchable tale presents itself.  And the crazier things get, the more we can’t stop following this story as it unfolds.  Moreover, it depicts a strong central heroine in the vortex of depravity somehow navigating her way through it all.  Unquestionably one of 2021’s most unexpectedly rewarding cinematic surprises!--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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