An infamous Twitter Tweet makes its big screen debut with sex and comedy.
Imagine if “Magic Mike” was an independent film that lasted for less than 90 minutes, had a feminine approach, and made Twitter Tweets in almost every scene. That movie would happen to be “Zola,” which is said to be based upon a Twitter thread by someone by the name of Aziah “Zola” King, and the Rolling Stone article “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted.” I don’t go that deep into Twitter, so I have no clue who she is, but I was interested in how Taylour Paige (“White Boy Rick,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) portrays her and how the movie delivers at a much better pace than “Spring Breakers.”
Given his Florida setting and prostitute set-up, I was reminded a bit of “The Florida Project” with Bria Vinaite playing a single mom and prostitute. The dialogue and tone reminded me of those independent films, including the social media style of “Eighth Grade,” and while I may not understand the story, it still offers some fresh performances and good laughs.
“But who is Zola?, we’re asking.
We meet Zola, a young waitress and exotic dancer, who meets the trampy Stefani (Riley Koeugh), and is more interested in Tweeting her than talking with her boyfriend Sean (Ari’el Stachel). She then joins Stefani, her boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun) and their pimp X (Colman Domingo) on a road trip down to Florida, where the two women perform at a local strip club.
Zola is peeved that she was roped into the stripper game, and just as he criticizes her new friend for being a stupid prostitute, the latter tells the former that X has her under his control. Zola then sets her up by jacking up the price of $500 a pop. This makes X happy with how much she made, and suspicious about whether or not Zola will have more power than him.
Meanwhile, Derrek has yet to hear from his girlfriend that night, while meeting Dion outside his motel. X also gets mad at him for making friends with this stranger and for posting Stefani’s proposition on Facebook. “Delete the post,” he says. In most segments, when X is calm, he talks in the actor’s normal voice, but when he gets angry and controlling, he talks with a British-Jamaican accent. And he also coughs when he takes a leak, but that’s a minor thing.
Often times on Facebook, I get friend requests from girls, who act like tramps for asking me to screw them and having dirty pictures on their profiles. Obviously, I ignore them, and I thought women had more sense. If they say they aren’t pieces of meat, then they shouldn’t act like them. That was my thought when watching “Zola,” which uses style and attitude to tell the story like it mostly was. At least I think so, because I’ve never heard about this story, as I told you. Nonetheless, I admire how smart and versatile Paige is as Zola, how entertaining Keough is as Stefani, how silly Braun is as the boyfriend, and how cool Domingo is as X.
The story gets confusing with all the propositions and sidetracks, but I like how writer/director Janicza Bravo (“Lemon”) and producer Dave Franco present “Zola” with the right appeals. It loves using the word “b*tch,” it loves using social media and iPhone sound effects, and it loves using its actors in the charisma of Harmony Korine meets Quentin Tarantino. You’re also able to find the comedy hidden between the sex, pole-swings, and guns, which pop up. Given its previous track record, I think it’s safe to say that A24, which releases this movie, loves using social media to shake things up. After all, independent films know how to deliver on that notion.