MMT Quick Review of ZOLA

(l to r) Riley Keough and Taylour Paige in ZOLA

Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.

Taylour Paige as A’Ziah King, aka ZOLA

Thus begins the one hour and thirty-minute crime dramedy ZOLA that opened today in theaters. Based on the 148 Tweetstorm by A’Ziah King, “Zola” is a real-life, character driven narrative that finds the protagonist, portrayed by Taylour Paige, challenged by the events of one agonizing weekend with a new “friend”/hustler named Stefani (Riley Keough), Stefani’s sex trafficking pimp (Colman Domingo), “whipped” boyfriend (Nicholas Braun), and a few other crazy characters that made Ms. King’s tweets the must read of all social media back in 2015.

“It’s not an accident that the Internet, and Black Twitter
specifically, called the story The Thotyssey,” says co-writer
Jeremy O. Harris. “In calling it that, they compared her to
Homer, and in a lot of ways she was. As Homer wrote the
first epic poem of the Western Canon, A’Ziah wrote the first
big poem of the digital era.” Jeremy O. Harris, Co-writer “Zola”

Co-writer and director Janicza Bravo (Lemon) takes King’s story, adds in some retro 70’s flair – there will more than likely be a lot of Tarantino “Pulp Fiction” comparisons, but in the good sense – and mixes in a rhythmical, orchestrated sense of storytelling, where even two boys playing basketball on a patio adds an interesting beat.

Taylour Paige as Zola is mesmerizing to watch on the screen, and you’ll root for her to get through the weekend’s crazy dilemmas, just as you’ll wish for Riley Keough’s intolerable Stefani to make it out of the weekend alive.

And Colman Domingo is simply masterful, making you both laugh at and fear the actions of eccentric pimp X.

When I walked out of the theater’s press screening and was asked by the publicist for my thoughts, the first thing I said was Domingo is a force and chameleon, like this generation’s Jeffrey Wright. The story is very intriguing, but he definitely makes it worth the price of admission.

Bravo’s craft is also highlighted in how the audience is able to detect where King’s Tweets begin and end, an extremely novel and entertaining way of sharing what came to be known online as #TheStory – which was also featured in a popular Rolling Stone article by David Kushner, on which the film is also based.

The thing I love most about this entire tweetstorm to film is that King was able to not only receive credit for her storytelling, but has made her chilling and comedic tale into a bankable profit – she’s listed as an executive producer and has a newly released book “The Story” to correspond with the film – and she continues to promote positive awareness of stripping/sex work.

Prior to watching the movie, I thought I wasn’t aware of King’s story back in 2015, but while researching I came across a Tweet that made me realize, “Oh yeah, I did read this back then!” I remembered King correcting writer/director Ava DuVernay about her upbringing, bluntly advising that she didn’t live in “the hood” as DuVernay’s Tweet suggested and tweeting back, “Ima suburban bitch. Stil (sic) love you tho.” She was challenging and correcting the stereotypical narrative of sex workers even back then.

A shocking story, both illuminating the freedom of sex work and the horrors of sex-trafficking, ZOLA is a non-stop, thrill ride filled with magnificent performances and creatively novel direction. Like it’s online predecessor, a must read, it is a must watch to believe narrative like no other. I rate it 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.

Until next thought, Thomasena


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