Zola Movie Review

“Zola” is based on the “Grand Literature” of these Modern Times. In other words, the movie is based on a Tweet. More like a Tweet avalanche of story beats posted over an epic weekend. It told of a “girl’s trip for fun and sun” to Tampa. Except that the fun and sun turned into debasement and debauchery. It went from Pole Dancing to Prostitution. This is based on true events, as they say. But then again — so was the Coen brother’s movie “Fargo”…


A Detroit waitress named Aziah King is known by her ‘exotic dancer’ name of Zola (played by Taylour Paige). While she is working one night, Zola meets a fellow dancer named Stefani (played by Riley Keough). Stefanfi has a ‘roommate’ that she simply calls X (played by Colman Domingo). X is a strong quiet type, but Stefani is Roman candle whose light shines brightly. Zola and Stefani get along very well, very quickly. After Zola’s shift the two of them go to local club to ‘perform’, where they make some pretty good money. X does not seem to mind to drive them all around to a few clubs, but he mentions the money could be better. {Tweet sent}



Early the next day, Stafani calls Zola and convinces her to go on a road trip to Tampa. It will be Zola and Stefani, driven by X. He knows some upscale clubs where they can go and earn a lot more cash. Also along the trip is Derek (played by Nicholas Braun), who is Stefani’s boyfriend. He is a good-natured fellow, but he seems slow in thought. In Tampa, X gets them into a very shabby hotel. Zola seems confused by this, but she and Stefani get over to some clubs to dance and make some money. {Tweet sent}



When they are done, they meet up with X again in the parking lot. He informs them that he now has alternate plans for them. He set up a room in a fancy hotel downtown and also created a page in the web site ‘Backpage’. That was an infamous site for finding sex workers and prostitution. Zola balks at this set up. X gets into a rage and becomes forcefully brutal. You will not say no to X — because he is ‘In Charge’. Stefani knows this and she does not resist. She has been down this road before. Zola does not have much other choice than to go with them. This trip is going to have a cost, after all… {Tweet sent}



Once in the hotel room, Zola refuses to turn any tricks. But all the men who have arrived want a young blond anyway. There is a parade of ‘Johns’ that have been set up. Zola knows her way around social media, and she takes over the sex site page. She makes Stefani the only one ‘available’ for some ‘quality time’, and she ups the price. But to all the men who stop by — that does not seem to be a problem. After a long and tawdry night of moral bankruptcy — Stefani and Zola can finally sleep with a tidy sum of illicit money. {Tweet sent}



X finds them in the morning and wants his pimp cut. He seems upset that Zola messed around with the pages rates and details. But he gets over it when he sees how much money they both brought in. Zola is so done with all of this — she wants to leave right now to go back home. Again, X shows more rage than compassion and threatens Zola with violence. Derek shows up, and he and Stefani have a falling out. He says she had promised never to do this again. Never find another woman and drag her out-of-town to only get into the world’s oldest profession for her ‘friend’ X. Wait — she has done this before? {Tweet sent}



Zola is stuck with Stefani and being her personal Sex Meeting Manager for at least another night. The two of them are driven around town by Derek on various ‘missions’ However; these missions rarely encounter any missionary positions. Instead, the list of Stefani’s ‘clients’ for the night is full of degrading and disgusting people and the things they want done. It is a dark and disturbing way to make a lot of hard, cold cash.  One of the final ‘encounters’ is at a downtown hotel. But Stefani gets taken inside the room at gunpoint and Zola runs for it. She and Derek get X to come over settle the situation. {Tweet sent}



“Zola” is a quick dive into a deep pool of human debauchery.  It is played as truth laid out bare, with an emphasis on the ‘bare’. But there are so many side winks and knowing looks, that you can imagine how the Writer and the Director said “Let’s embellish this little detail just a bit more.” But they did it over and over again. Since the source material comes from a long series of Tweets, they have fun with the sounds of a Twitter account running in the background. You can hear the sounds of a Tweet being sent and a person typing on the keys. It makes the movie stand out in fun way, even when the subject matter is heavy and serious. The story moves quickly and the movie is short. Just not as short as Tweet…



The acting is very good, seeing that most of these characters are either way too silly to some being downright unlikable. But the thin nature of the story does not give them much to work with. The dialog (and the visuals) is not for the faint-hearted. There way too many “N” words, along with “F” bombs, followed by the “B” word, with more than enough “H” words. That is “H”, which is meaning the “WH” word, which – aw – just forget it. There is a ton of profane and insensitive language. But in some weird, and in an uneasy way, this all seems to work.






Directed by: Janicza Bravo
Screenplay by: Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris
Based on: “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted” (by David Kushner and Tweets by Aziah “Zola” King)
Starring: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo
Distributed by: A24
Release date: June 30, 2021
Length: 90 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, and violence including a sexual assault
Genre: Black Comedy



tmc.io contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

I think movies need to be shared and enjoyed by as many people as possible! Going to a movie theater is a group experience, even if you go in there alone. When the lights go dark and movie begins, you can participate in a special kind of magic. You can be entertained, or enlightened. But you are never bored. Or at least, let's hope not. Try reading the reviews first.. maybe that will help!

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I've been waitin' on this one for over a year! Love A24's films!
A24 always knows how to bend the curve to make a movie that just borders on being too 'artsy-fartsy', but can always bring in a decent audience. High reviews and high respect (not blockbusters). A24 - Good on Ya!