A notorious Twitter thread became a thing of social media legend and more importantly the subject of a Rolling Stone article. That thread became the inspiration for Zola.
A Detroit waitress meets a fellow exotic dancer and decides to go with her to Florida for some work; setting off a wild adventure she would tell the world about in 280-character segments.
While the story came from nowhere, director Janicza Bravo has a more established career in directing having helmed episodes of Dear White People and Donald Glover’s Atlanta. The script is at times verbatim from the infamous Twitter thread, but it doesn’t lean on it too heavily and is still well written. It’s equal part funny and scary. Believable and unbelievable.
Despite its source material, there’s only the occasional social media gimmick like selfie videos and emojis. It is nevertheless quite inventive in its direction in making a modern comedy crime drama style film.
The film’s like the ultimate African American twitter story and so its audience should love this hilarious and often outrageous film.
The acting feels completely over the top and so all too real.
The dancing is rather diverting as well.
There’s the cultural appropriation that goes on, but the movie knows it and would say that’s the point. Antagonist Jessica is a little too interested in the way African Americans speak and the movie doesn’t let her get away with it.
Zola includes some low key modern music, but isn’t trying too hard. There are some great inventive musical choices between scenes.
It’s a low budget film but makes the most of its funds that makes for an engaging, likeable movie. There’s also some inventive camera work as it moves around the action.
A caveat for all this is that at the heart of this film there is sex trafficking. That will leave some feeling uneasy about the making of a fun crime comedy-drama out of a serious issue of exploitation. Yet humour can be used to discuss serious issues and that seems to be Bravo’s method here.
The viewers will be left asking themselves what really happened, but why look for truth when you can be this entertained? Investigation suggests there’s some embellishment, but the gist is true. Yet the viewer will stay engaged because of its over the top humour.
This film is an enjoyable comedy of messes.