When A'Ziah King's #TheStory was first shared in a series of tweets posted to Twitter in October 2015, the social media app had easily received the juiciest and most potent piece of content for the time. It was shared in a manner that embraced hilarity and surprises, while offering suspense and succeeding pandemonium from the lens of an underprepared stripper. It is incredibly owed to King herself @_zolarmoon who narrated a story so effectively, it had to transition to the big screen in Janicza Bravo's "Zola".
The original story details a weekend trip between new friends Zola (Taylour Paige) and Stefani (Riley Keough). The two dancers spark up a friendship after first meeting during one of Zola's waitressing shifts. Days later Stefani invites Zola to dance in another city for some big cash, and as the weekend advances Zola quickly realizes how under prepared she was for what was about to go down. Namely, a night spent selling sex, answering to Stefani's pimp "Z" (Colman Domingo), being held at gunpoint, witnessing a shooting, and navigating the whole thing with Stefani's explosive partner, Derrek (Nicholas Braun).
Readers of King's famous Twitter thread can see it all play out as if they were Zola, following the powerful newcomer Paige as she holds your attention in each scene. Everyone, including Stefani, reacts like they are fully aware of the steps to take in each encounter, but audiences following Zola feel her confusion as each situation leads to something more dangerous and alarming. It differs from the original Twitter story because instead of feeling safe within Zola's writing as she casually and personably retells the events of the night, the movie doesn't include heavy narration and each scene really sits with you as it plays out.
That being said, this is a movie that bares all! When Z has Zola and Stefani trick - sell sex for cash - it leads up to an entourage of worn faces entering a hotel room to pay for time with Stefani, and Zola has to be in the same room while it happens! So do we and the sex is on full display. While this is revealing more than just the tip of the iceberg, it surely deserved to be on your list of expectations going in. Still noteworthy across this and every setting is how beautiful the evenings in the city look when separated from the unfolding events.
The feel of this movie is something bright and too close to dreamy to be a nightmare. But, that's the lure of it. Zola had been briefed for a weekend making money with a new best friend and is going home traumatized. Amidst it all was enough illusion to get lost in a new friendship. Zola and Stefani spark something up that feels spontaneous but trusted, and when we see the girls talk to each other it's all new and exciting, but it isn't until people on the outside invade and disrupt their weekend that the real impact of the night makes its mark. The nights captured here are an invitation to the mysterious and elusive and can be appreciated in enough time to not waste yours.
"Zola" has a runtime of 87 minutes and while that leaves ample time to get in and get out of this joyride, it comes to a halt and leaves some information out. Details involving Z's character and what happens after the night's events settle can be found in the original Twitter thread. Maybe you're encouraged to find that for yourself to get the full story. Even if some mystery looms after the fact, this is a sensational story you don't want to miss!
"Zola" was released on June 30 in theaters nationwide. If you love talking movies, follow my Twitter @JSYKnowa, and let's discuss what you found to be remarkable in A24's latest!
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