Tag Archives: Taylor Paige

Florida Project

Zola

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.

Hoop Fantasies

Boogie

by George Wolf

What’s the greatest moment in Asian-American history?

According to Alfred “Boogie” Chin’s father, it’s Micheal Chang’s upset of Ivan Lendl in the 1989 French Open final. And though Boogie’s sport is basketball, the Chin family is hoping some similar court magic will take them all the way to the NBA.

And that’s the first trouble sign with writer/director Eddie Huang’s first feature. From what we see on the court, the idea that Boogie (Taylor Takahashi in his screen debut) is good enough to play in college – let alone the NBA – is laughable.

Wisely, Huang keeps the in-game action to a minimum, focusing instead on the pressures of an Asian teen who must shoulder the burden of being his family’s savior while coming of age in Queens, New York.

Boogie transferred to City Prep High School, so a high-profile showdown with Brooklyn phenom “Monk” (rapper/musician Pop Smoke, is his last role before his tragic murder last year) would help land a college scholarship. But so far, the scouts aren’t promising anything more than walk-on opportunities.

The opportunities with Eleanor (Taylor Paige, so good in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the clear standout in this cast) are looking much brighter. As the big game draws near and the “manager” Mom hired makes things even more tense at home, Boogie leans on Eleanor for a quiet sense of comfort.

Huang (creator of TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat”) throws out some solid ideas, but his attempts to develop them stop at vague generalities. Much like the hooping talent, the cultural struggle of the Chin family is told more than shown, never giving us a reason to get emotionally involved.

And if you’re going to cast a completely inexperienced actor as your lead, why not someone who’s actually a basketball talent? Takahashi was apparently a high school standout, but that doesn’t translate here. Still, even without the inexplicable basketball charade, the coming-of-age drama is only G league material. Huang may yet prove he got game, but it’s going to take some work in the film room.