by George Wolf
Is it surprising that movies are now born from Twitter threads? Maybe, for a minute. But you’ll find good stories on Twitter, and Zola tells a ferociously good story, even if some of it may not be exactly true.
In 2015, A’Ziah “Zola” King took to her Twitter account, and in 148 tweets told a jaw-dropping yarn about meeting Stefanie, traveling south with her to dance in Tampa strip clubs, and quickly regretting it all.
Director/co-writer Janicza Bravo adapts David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article with an undeniable vision. She brings a vital, in-your-face aesthetic that succeeds in putting the tale’s social media roots right up on the screen without a hint of pandering or desperation hipness.
Anyone who’s seen Taylor Paige in strong supporting roles (Boogie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) knew her breakout was coming soon, and now here it is. She owns every frame as Zola, guiding us through this mashup of hilarity and horror show with captivating bursts of sass, shade and poignant vulnerability.
Riley Keough has a tough job finding the soft spots in the outlandish Stefani, but she lands them repeatedly. Is the offensive Stefani we’re seeing just a cartoon villain from Zola’s memory, or is she also a victim? Keough give us important glimpses that make us care enough to wonder.
Bravo, Paige and Keough (with solid support from Colman Domingo, Nick Braun and Jason Mitchell) each brings indelible talent to Zola, and the sheer buzz of this wild ride becomes irresistible.
Is it truth? Fiction? A bit of both?
It matters only in that it doesn’t matter at all. Because whatever truth still exists in the digital age, Zola speaks it.