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Film Review

ZOLA (2021) Review

Charlie reviews A24’s ZOLA calling it “the wildest movie you will see all year. It is tense, uncomfortable and thrilling.”

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Zola (Sony Pictures)

Sony Pictures presents Zola in UK cinemas from August 6th.

Synopsis

“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” Thus began the odyssey of one A’Ziah King, aka ZOLA. From acclaimed writer/director Janicza Bravo, Zola’s stranger than fiction saga, which she first told in a now iconic series of viral, uproarious tweets, comes to dazzling cinematic life. Zola (Taylour Paige), a Detroit waitress, strikes up a new friendship with a customer, Stefani (Riley Keough), who seduces her to join a weekend of dancing and partying in Florida. What at first seems like a glamorous trip full of “hoeism” rapidly transforms into a 48-hour journey involving a nameless pimp, an idiot boyfriend, some Tampa gangsters and other unexpected adventures in this wild, see-it-to-believe-it tale.

Review

After its debut at the Sundance Film Festival at the beginning of 2020, audiences can now finally see the highly-anticipated Zola in cinemas. The film is based on a true story and is one of the first feature films to be adapted from a twitter thread. So, was this movie worth the twenty month wait? Read on to find out.

Zola follows a waitress, Zola (played by Taylour Paige), who agrees to accompany an exotic dancer, her put-upon boyfriend, and her mysterious and domineering roommate on a road trip to Florida to seek their fortune at a high-end strip club.

Watch the opening five minutes of the movie here:

The story itself sounds incredibly straightforward but what follows is a crazy and unsettling viewing that rarely comes from a movie nowadays. At first, the story seems fairly surface level but once the movie kicks into gear around thirty minutes in, you’re hooked and cannot take your eyes off the screen. Everything is much more convoluted than it looks and this film really does know the perfect time when to give answers and when to make a situation more tense or unsettling.

Taylour Paige is incredible as Zola and she really is our guide through this story. We see her in every single scene in this movie yet she is also telling it to us too from the future as our guide and narrator. You can feel and see the fear that her character must face and director Janicza Bravo perfectly makes you on-edge and feel unsure what will happen to her character next.

Riley Keough (The Devil All The Time, Mad Max: Fury Road) is also excellent in the film playing Zola’s new friend, Stefani. You root for her and can understand why she does what she does in the film yet, with Zola being our narrator through this story, there is a great contrast and when the two confront each other about the messy situation they have found themselves in, you get that big payoff that Bravo had been teasing and building towards throughout the first half of the film.

However, the movie lacks any sort of an ending. It abruptly end in the middle of what feels like its climax and therefore felt devoid of any ending whatsoever. There never really is a conclusion and when it’s all said and done, felt disappointing and needed maybe another rewrite to have that satisfying close to a wild and tense film.

The cinematography is fantastic though. The way Ari Wegner filmed the entire way is very hypnotic and throws you into a trance. The colours are dazzling and purposefully stand out in a vibrant way. The costumes also help with this as they stand out against the Florida setting which makes the entire movie look visually appealing.

Verdict

Zola is the wildest movie you will see all year. It is tense, uncomfortable, thrilling and the performances from the entire cast are superb and Colman Domingo is a great antagonist for the film. It certainly won’t be everybody’s cup of tea because the movie does go to some dark and heavy places in its second half but if you have been interested in Zola, like me, I highly urge you to see it in cinemas this weekend.


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