The Stream: Somehow not as crazy as the source material
The Big Screen: A great ensemble cast firing on all cylinders
The Final Bill: A tight, clever movie full of suspense and humor– Trip Fontaine
Director: Janicza Bravo
Writers: Janicza Bravo (written by) & Jeremy O. Harris (written by), A’Ziah King (based on the Tweets by), David Kushner (based on the Story by)
Stars: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rating: R (Full Nudity, Drugs, Violence, Foul Language, etc.)
Runtime: 1 hour 21 minutes
Production Companies: Killer Films, Gigi Films, Ramona Films
Platform: Released in theaters June 30, 2021
Typically, movies are adapted from novels, plays and even news articles, but can a Twitter thread really be developed into a compelling film? When the story is as outrageous as the tweetstorm that A’Ziah “Zola” King posted about 5 years ago, then it is worth an try. Recently released in theaters, Zola is the successful adaptation by Janicza Bravo and Jeremy O. Harris of that infamous Twitter thread. Bravo directs the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Harris and infused it with all the suspense and humor that King’s original tweets had while adding in some social commentary. Here’s how it goes.
While billed as part comedy, Zola is a cautionary tale about taking “hoe trips” with a person you barely know. Zola (Taylour Paige) meets Stefani (Riley Keough) at her day job at a Hooters-type restaurant and they become fast friends – too fast. The next day, Stefani invites Zola on a weekend trip to Florida with her “roommate” (Colman Domingo) and her boyfriend (Nicholas Braun) to earn some easy cash by dancing at a nightclub. As the trip begins, Zola begins to realize that she doesn’t know Stefani as well as she should now that she’s 20 hours from home. Things get messy, crazy and dangerous with every turn of events. Zola definitely never heard that important bit of advice: never go to a second location.
At less than 90 minutes, Bravo has directed a very tight film that keeps the energy, entertainment, and suspense at a high level. Each new scene escalates the potential danger and dread that comes with this trip. Bravo and Harris have been able to maintain King’s voice throughout the film. It’s like she’s reading her tweets and it just materializes on screen. They have added to the soundtrack that iconic Twitter message sound that corresponds to direct quotes from the source material. Although we know that some things have been changed to adapt for the screen, it all still feels as urgent, dangerous and outrageous as it must have when it occurred. The film itself moves at a great clip and never loses your attention, but the only problem with it is that the ending feels rushed and unresolved.
I have to mention the outstanding cast. Most people will note what a character Stefani is and how Riley Keough embodies her. She has that accent and looks the part of the appropriative try-hard. She so wants to ingratiate herself with Zola and you know she’s trustworthy. Keough changes her eyes and voice trying to gain sympathy, but you know she’s up to no good. Taylour Paige is a fantastic anchor for the film. Paige gets to be annoyed, fed-up and self-assured while dealing with this terrifying situation. The looks that Paige’s Zola shoots at Stefani are deadly. Colman Domingo and Nicholas Braun round out the core ensemble, and both are great. Braun brings most of the humor while Domingo gets to be menacing. All of these actors work well together and make the film an enjoyable ride.
Ultimately, whether you’ve read the Twitter thread or not, Zola is a worthwhile adventure to the movies. It has suspense and humor. There are great performances and clever commentary on society, friendship and trust. Be careful who you take your “hoe trips” with – make sure to get a big box of popcorn for this one.