Director: Janicza Bravo
Runtime: 90 minutes
Cast: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Ari’el Stachel, Colman Domingo
Synopsis: Zola, a Detroit waitress, is seduced into a weekend of stripping in Florida for some quick cash — but the trip becomes a sleepless 48-hour odyssey involving a nefarious friend, her pimp and her idiot boyfriend.
“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and 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 writer-director Janicza Bravo [Lemon (2017)] comes the unforgettable and outrageous story of two women who hit the road to score quick cash dancing for money in Tampa, only to find their friendship tested when one of them isn’t who she claims to be.
Zola’s bizarre saga, which she first told in 2015 in a now legendary Twitter thread of 148 viral, uproarious tweets, known as #TheStory to thousands of fans by nineteen-years-old Detroit waitress A’Ziah “Zola” King @_zolarmoon comes to dazzling cinematic life.
Zola [Taylour Paige – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)], a Detroit waitress, strikes up a new friendship with a customer, Stefani [Riley Keough – American Honey (2016)], who cajoles Zola into joining her for a weekend of partying in Tampa, Florida. But what at first seems like a glamorous weekend of stripping in Florida for some quick cash becomes a sleepless 48-hour odyssey involving this nefarious friend, Stefani, her pimp X (Colman Domingo – Lincoln (2012, Selma (2014)], her idiot boyfriend Derrek [Nicholas Braun – Succession], some Tampa gangsters and other unexpected adventures in this wild, raunchy, stranger-than-fiction, seedy and unnerving road trip.
Bravo’s second feature is a comedy-thriller that starts off as a free-spirited, female-centric road movie and detours into avenues both criminal and incredible. Beginning as an After Hours-like descent into the unknown, Zola builds and transforms into something else entirely: a journey reclaimed and reframed, several months later, by the person who experienced it.
The film and the disturbing real events on which it is based present an empowering tale of female and take-charge determination in the face of male oppression.
Zola emerges as a resourceful heroine for our times with a suitably caustic authorial voice for the ages.
Images courtesy of A24