In Theatres: 
Jun 30, 2021
Running Time: 
90 minutes

There are wild and unbelievable stories, and then there is Zola.  Aziah "Zola" King’s story originated as a lengthy Twitter thread where described in hilarious detail her weekend going on what she thought would just be a stripping road trip with a new friend but turned out to be so much more. After her story went viral a Rolling Stones article further explored the truths to her absurd tale. And now, almost six years later, we have a feature film adaptation of said events, and it’s just as ridiculous and over-the-top as her tweets. How true any of this is is anyone’s guess, but it honestly doesn’t matter because the story itself is a trip worth taking.


Zola (Taylour Paige) works as a waitress and does a little dancing on the side as well. One day while working, Stefani (Riley Keough) comes into her restaurant and the two immediately hit it off as it turns out Stefani dances too. The following day Stefani invites Zola on a road trip to Florida with her boyfriend to dance in the clubs. She’s reluctant at first, seeing as she just met this person, but she agrees, and things start off fairly normal at first. But what Stefani didn’t tell Zola was that X (Colman Domingo), a guy who “takes care of her,” would also be joining them for the trip. Zola soon finds herself caught in the middle between Stefani and X as they make the big money selling sex. But with the big rewards comes big risks, and Zola isn’t exactly about all that.


From the opening moments, Zola is a film that just continues to build in the madness surrounding the titular character. There are no ups and downs in the flow of the film, just a steep and steady climb. I was unfamiliar with the original viral Twitter thread the film is based on, so Zola’s descent into chaos was completely fresh for me. Something ridiculous will happen and you’ll think to yourself that there’s no way they’ll top that, and then a few moments later they do just that. 


Director Janicza Bravo does a fantastic job at putting you in the passenger seat of this wild adventure. Every scene is vibrant and energetic, overloading your senses as you take in what’s unfolding in front of your eyes. A lot of that is thanks to the supreme talents of Taylour Paige and Riley Keough as well. Their performances are absolutely captivating. Paige narrates much of the film, oftentimes pulling direct quotes from Aziah King’s actual tweets. This is her story so naturally we’re going to see things from her point of view, but at one point Bravo switches things up and directly hands the story off to Stafani going so far as to give her her own title sequence just as Zola and then letter her briefly share her events of the same story.


The whole truth of the matter isn’t actually relevant because the story and characters are so entertaining. As with any film, there’s no doubt that the details are exaggerated, probably to a great degree. It’ll still sink its hooks into you, regardless. Zola isn’t about sending some message about the seediness of prostitution; it’s not a redemption story, either. Zola is unabashedly unapologetic, delivering nothing more than an entertaining story.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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