Zola Review: Stripper’s Viral Tweets Get an Ugly, Bonkers Adaptation
In October 2015, A’Ziah “Zola” King, a Detroit Hooters waitress and part-time stripper, sparked a 150-tweet thread that became a viral sensation. The tweet storm, now infamously known as “The Story,” was a crazy tale of a road trip with a cheeky young woman he had served at work. Zola, actually titled @Zola, is adapted from David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article, “Zola Tells It All: The True Story Behind The Best Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted.” The film is a roller coaster ride down a sordid path of prostitution, sexual slavery, and violence. ZolaIt’s shot in an imaginative way that highlights the sheer insanity. How much of this is true remains to be clarified, but it is absolutely amazing to see.
Zola open with herTaylor paige) serving tables like a scantily clad restaurant server. She catches the attention of Stefani (Riley keough), dressed provocatively and dining with a much older man. Stefani and Zola connect immediately. They recognize that they are both strippers who like to “rush” for money. Women exchange numbers, social networks and the promise to stay in touch. Later, that day, Zola is surprised to hear from Stefani. He goes with his team to get naked in Tampa for the weekend. ZolaAlthough she has literally just met Stefani, she is attracted to easy money and decides to go with them.
ZolaWarning alarms sound immediately when picked up in an expensive Mercedes SUV. Talkative Stefani is accompanied by her lanky boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun), and led by “X” (Colman Domingo), another older man with an African accent. Derrek’s behavior on the road is erratic. But things get worse when they arrive at a seedy hotel with thugs hanging around. Zola She soon realizes that Stefani is a prostitute, “X” is her pimp, and hopes that she too “catches” the men. The next 48 hours turn into a maelstrom of sex and violence as you Zola fight to escape.
Director / co-writer Janicza Bravo (Lemon, Atlanta) requires a lot of creative license to tell “The Story.” Zola he narrates through a constant stream of voice-overs. A hiss, coupled with a close-up reaction shot, is heard every time ZolaHis hair stands on end. Bravo also uses a variety of camera angles and animation to differentiate between various disturbing scenes. The overall effect is quite fascinating, especially with the spooky theme. Zola shows the female leads in many compromising situations, but never naked. That distinction is saved for the plethora of “Johns” or “Tricks” attended by Stefani.
Zola it gets ugly fast. The heart of this story is forced prostitution, sexual abuse and human trafficking. ZolaLike countless women, she is promised work. Then he discovers that they cannot leave the clutches of despicable men. Colman Domingo paints this bleak picture succinctly as “X”. The women are his property to sell. Any intransigence results in swift retaliation. The film describes this scourge too lightly. The prostitution scenes are done with an artistic touch. What two consenting adults do in private is their business. But that scenario changes when a participant or observer is unwilling. Zola it would have served its subject better with frank descriptions.
Zola hits different nerves. Further investigation into the aftermath of this event had dire consequences for another woman trapped by the real “X” and “Stefani”. What happened to him is documented in fact and had serious legal consequences for “X”. In that sense, Zola it cannot be seen in a vacuum as an interesting movie about viral tweets. There’s so much more to “The Story” that wasn’t a social media sensation, but also deserved to be told. Zola is a Killer Films, Gigi Films and Ramona Films production. It is currently in theatrical release from A24.
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