Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A movie that began with Tweets


If you're skeptical about a movie developed from a series of furious tweets, you're not alone. I, too, wondered whether anyone could or even should make such a movie. Enter Zola, a slender movie developed from the tweets of A'Ziah King, a woman who  in 2015 found herself caught up in an adventure involving pole dancing, prostitution, and threatened violence.  Zola casts Taylour Paige as Zola, a woman who's talked into accompanying a new friend (Riley Keough) on a road trip. The pitch: They can make some quick money pole dancing by traveling from Detroit to Florida. Once in Florida, it becomes clear that Keough's Stefani has more than dancing in mind. Colman Domingo plays X, Stefani's pimp, a guy who's amiable until he isn't. Stefani is also accompanied by her boyfriend (Nicholas Braun), a clueless young man who seems to have no idea what's going on -- and might not even if someone told him. Tension arises when Zola decides that it's better to be on the marketing end of the sex trade. She has no interest in providing carnal services and doesn't. Director Janicza Bravo doesn't shortchange nudity, sex scenes, and the butt-jiggling wonders of pole dancing without making any of it seem less than tawdry. I've seen Zola referred to as a satire. Whatever it is, you may ask yourself (I did) why keep watching? One reason: Both actresses are totally committed to the movie's odd journey. If there were an Oscar for playing ditzy but conniving women, Keough would be an instant frontrunner. In the end, though, Zola seems little more than a curiosity that answers a question that probably didn't need to be raised: How little source material does it take to make an 82-minute movie?

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