Zola: Crude, wild and nasty, but I liked it

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Anna Kooris / A24

Riley Keough and Taylour Paige star in stripper saga “Zola.”

Strange and wild things come once in a full moon. Or, sometimes come in like the wind. The movie (or documentary, if that is what it is) “Zola” is one of those topics – or in this case, a tweet.

The old saying about how you can’t believe everything you see online is something that could be right, but this film is so wild, crazy, crude and downright shocking that you would think it’s fake. I wouldn’t blame you if you think this film is stranger than any fictional film in Hollywood.

Well, director Janicza Bravo decided to throw the narrative about what’s fiction straight into the trash and gave the viewers a shock to their system. This movie was based on the Twitter story that was made by Aziah “Zola” King, the young woman who wrote a 148-tweet thread about her wild stripper trip to Florida in 2015. 

The Twitter story went viral and was pushed into the spotlight by a Rolling Stone article that describes Zola’s “greatest stripper saga” in the months following the events.

I know the long introduction might be something that could be questionable, but you need to hear this to set up the plot.

The film is about a Hooters waitress and stripper named Zola, played by Taylour Paige, who is living a normal life with her boyfriend. She has a strange encounter with another stripper named Stefani, played by Riley Keough, who entices her with the chance to make “big” money in Florida at a strip club. Zola agrees with the deal, so the two of them road trip to Florida with Stefani’s socially-awkward boyfriend Derek, played by Nicholas Braun, and Stefani’s “friend” X, played by Colman Domingo – and I use his character term “friend” loosely.

The crew’s trip goes straight to the gutter for Zola once the real reason why Stefani really wants her is revealed midway through the movie. There is one crazy outcome from one misfire to another. By the time the film ends, you would more puzzled and confused about what exactly went down just like our main character was.  

It was shocking to say the least and you will catch yourself laughing at some parts in the film that shouldn’t be laughed at, from orgies that end in someone fainting to the narrator saying that the “white bitch” can spell “f—.” it was just downright filthy and vulgar to the extent of laughter. 

Despite the subject matter, the cinematography in this film is also beautiful and uses social media filters and the “tweet” sound effect to set up the tone for certain scenes.  

I was drawn into the situation of these characters and how the movie interacted with the viewers to the point of being shellshocked by the end. I can’t give away too much of the film. Not because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but because some of the scenes in the film are too risky as Zola and Stefani navigate their rocky relationship through sex work.

Overall, this film is one crazy ride that the real Zola put out to the world and one that Hollywood was bold enough to make into a film. This is truly one of the raunchiest and wild films I’ve seen in a long time, and it is worth seeing if you want a fun night out at the movies.