Zola plays like the younger sister of Spring Breakers. It is a gorgeously shot, wildly inventive Floridian nightmare with excellent performances. It is a movie that grabs you from minute one and even though it does slow down a bit at some times, it’s a truly hypnotic experience.
Based on a legendary, 148-tweet storm from a stripper named Zola (Taylour Paige) who went on a trip to Florida with another stripper named Stefani (Riley Keough), Stefani’s boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun), and Stefani’s roommate (Coleman Domingo), a person who simply goes by X. These four drive down to Florida to make bank at a strip club, but what transpires is a hellscape of sex and violence.
The fact that this movie is adapted from a series of tweets is incredible, but co-writer/director Janicza Bravo clearly had a vision for it and it is a striking, unique vision. Using some of the actual tweets as Zola’s inner monolog gave us perspective from Zola. Some of the perspective is funny, some of it is shocking, yet Bravo balances it nicely that one never over-shadows the other. Though there are number of amusing things in the movie, this is a road trip from hell and Bravo gives us scenes that will make you gasp and scenes that will make you squirm in your seat.
This is a movie about the utilization of cell phones in this age. A movie that utilizes the Twitter “chirp” as essentially part of its score and uses things like “heart-likes” and volume of a cell phone lowering as visual devices that tell us things about the characters but add to the visual uniqueness of the film. The cinematography is excellent with a gorgeous color pallet and the editing keeps the films tone and attitude rolling.
Taylour Paige gives a star-making performance as Zola. Zola has no idea what to expect on this trip to Florida. She thinks it’s for business, but because she barely knows Stefani and doesn’t know her business. Paige exudes the fear and uncertainty of the situation, but brings a confidence and swagger of someone with a ton of street smarts and perseverance. Riley Keough brings in another sensational performances as Stefani, a woman who has put herself in a terrible situation and continues to do what she does for her daughter and he safety. Braun is sad and amusing as Derrek and the great Coleman Domingo give a terrifying, scene-stealing performance as a man we slowly learn has more on his mind than just driving these girls down to Florida. Domingo has been a great character actor for years and this is one of the best performances of his career.
Zola is a story you have to see to believe. There were some small pacing issues in the middle of the film and some of the energy deflated, but when this movie hits it hits hard. Taylour Paige is a star in the making and though only her second feature,
Zola is playing in the U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
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