So we’ve had films based on based on books, films based on games and now we have Zola the first film based on a series of tweets. Now looking at the current spat of twitter flaming we were curious how a film could be made from tweets along the lines of ‘You dick’ …..!’ …… No, You’re a dick !’ ….No, YOU’RE a dick!’ ….. NO, YOU’RE A DICK !‘ and so on until one of them calls the police who attend to confirm that both parties are indeed, dicks.
Apparently a true story from 2015, Zola (Taylour Paige) was a waitress who was befriended by Stefani (Riley Keough). The pair share an instant connection and Stefani invites her on a road trip to Florida for a gig at stripper bars where they both can earn good money. That the film starts with Zola asking the audience, ‘Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? is an indicator where this road trip is headed. And the first signs are there when Zola is picked up by Stefani with her roommate X (Colman Domingo) and her witless wonder of a boyfriend Derrick (Nicholas Braun) who sports that bizarre crime against facial hair, the moustacheless beard.
The red flags are everywhere none more so than when Stefani refers to X as someone, ‘who takes care of me’ ….essentially he’s her pimp and in that capacity he’s intent on earning off Zola too. That things will take a turn for the worse is a friendship that the dullard Derrick strikes up with a black guy at a liquor store and is obviously destined to end catastrophically . But Zola is savvy enough and strong enough not to get herself drawn into the prostitution instead acting as a ‘greeter’ for Stefani’s clients in a sequence that is sleazy and queasy as Zola takes over the pricing of Stefani’s services.
Directed by Janicza Bravo this is an audacious exhilarating debut. There’s an energy and dynamic to the story telling which is both profane, disturbing and funny often all at the same time. The exhilaration of what both women see as an exciting road trip as they film each other rapping along to Migo’s ‘Hannah Montana’ shaking their booties as they drive through the searing sunshine and blue skies. Not wanting to ignore its 148 tweet twitter thread Bravo has thrown in a number of flourishes on the sound mix which is littered with the two note twitter chirp and also the use of a strategically placed emoji. But the film holds a certain ambivalence to what’s going on and Stefani, who is a potty mouthed liar, a facilitator with seemingly no moral compass affecting a street wise patois where everyone is referred to as, ‘beeetch!’, should be a bad guy yet Keough plays her with such charm that it’s hard not to like her. Equally Zola, who looks to be dragged into a spiral of hell, is grounded enough to extricate herself from some grim moments whilst at the same time as involved with ‘taking care‘ of Stefani as X.
This zips along barely pausing to let you catch your breath and its attitude to it’s subject matter will divide audiences and the ending of the film feels unfinished but Zola is undoubtedly the year’s most wildly exhilarating film
Here’s the Zola trailer…….