IIn 2015, a Detroit part-time dancer named Aziah “Zola” Wells went viral with a sassy Twitter thread that purported to tell the outright story of her recent wildly dangerous road trip to Florida with someone named Jessica, a who had just met. This woman had persuaded Zola that there was a lot of money in pole dancing for wealthy clients in Tampa, but Zola had to share the car with Jessica’s creepy boyfriend and even creepiest pimp, and it was soon clear that Zola was going to have to do much more. to dance. She was way above his head.
Or was it her? Followers of Zola’s posts loved them, at least in part, because of how outrageously unreliable they were: Zola was clearly embellishing or preemptively giving her side of the story before Jessica did the same. Now this has been turned into a highly entertaining crime comedy from director and co-writer Janicza Bravo, a movie that retains the fishy flavor of the online original, albeit perhaps only semi-intentionally, and has interesting things to say about the grueling. interpretation. and the self-promoting world of social media.
Newcomer Taylour Paige plays the worldly and unflappable Zola; she’s working her other restaurant job when she tends to a hyperactive and talkative customer (renamed) Stefani, played with fierce, lightning energy by Riley Keough. Stefani is a charming “sassy” and quick talker who persuades Zola to join her on an easy money weekend in the world adjacent to sex work of stripping, fanatically flattering and seducing her with endless postings on the social media and selfies. But then Zola is taken aback by the two guys who are seemingly coming with them in the car: Derrek (Nicholas Braun, the inexperienced younger cousin from the TV series Succession) and a fiercely sinister guy with no name, who goes to negotiate the rate of the tickets. women for providing additional services, played by Colman Domingo. Like Stefani, he appears to have a learned accent, as he will later frighteningly reveal.
The key question is how innocent is Zola. Did he really not know what he was expected to do? Didn’t he really join in on what Stefani was doing with the guys in the hotel room? (The movie shows a hideous penis montage.) And if she was so far removed from all this, how did she know how to increase her income from Stefani’s sex work? The movie briefly flirts with a Rashomon-like sequence, disrespecting Zola from Stefani’s point of view, but pausing long before giving Stefani equal time. This is the story of Zola and the seductive comedy resides in the film inviting us to take her side, as we watch her repress herself.
In a way, this feels like a ’90s movie before social media, featuring characters in freezeframe-voiceover; Bravo even gives us Keough caught unflatteringly in the middle of a blink, a visual joke drawn from Alexander Payne’s 1999 picks. But the sheer mad energy of the film is highly addictive, particularly in the early leg of the journey through The couple’s highway, overexcited and recording videos incessantly. each other for Hannah Montana by Migos on the sound system, until Zola finds that everything is very draining and gives her a headache.
And the movie is strangely open and unfinished in the way of real life, which is in part a function of the bragging, the lack of humility, the social media neurosis of the pictures or it didn’t happen. But Zola also manages to be a coolly clever and funny Florida urban thriller in the style of Carl Hiaasen, carried with great expressionless style by Paige.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism