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Zola is a captivating cinematic experience inspired by the wildly viral Twitter thread by Aziah "Zola" Wells back in 2015. In this stylish, provocative, and daring film, director Janicza Bravo, together with screenwriter Jeremy O. Harris, dive headfirst into the perplexing world of internet tales, memes, and strange realities. The narrative is crafted from 148 tweets – which, in being adapted for the big screen, creates an experimental blend between zany journalism and immersive storytelling.

The film calls into question the boundaries between fact and fiction, projected selves and tangible identities, in our increasingly digital world. It proves to be a thrilling exploration of dubious friendships, manipulation, and the demand for control, framed exceedingly well within the gloomy underbelly of the American Dream.

Taylour Paige gives a brilliant performance as Zola, a Detroit waitress who has an unexpected friendship spark with a customer at her restaurant– a sprightly, chatty stripper named Stefani, played by Riley Keough. Zola's charisma, aloof charm and caution present her as a character whose journey we’re interested to follow, even as things spiral down into deeper chaos.

Stefani is a powerhouse of a character, teetered carefully between hilarity and menace. Keough's portrayal is incredibly persuasive; her character’s ostentatious accent and calculating demeanor make for an engaging and equally frightening antagonist, as the world she invites Zola into quickly becomes volatile and threatening.

The film follows the duo as they embark on a road trip to Florida, a journey that Stefani claims will lead to wealth and opportunity for them both. Yet, the golden landscape of this promised paradise quickly gives way to seedy strip clubs, bare motel rooms, and dubious characters. This includes Stefani's boyfriend, Derrek, a perpetually bamboozled figure played by Nicholas Braun, and X, an ominous figure who lurks at the expedition's periphery, portrayed by Brandon Colby Kim.

Nicholas Braun effectively encapsulates an almost naive and bewildered boyfriend, providing pivotal moments of humor amidst the stressful situations. On the other hand, Colby Kim as X brings a threatening, predatory presence to their journey. His character hangs over most scenes like a cloud that threatens to break into a storm, feeding into the film's growing sense of menace.

Underneath its vivid, evocative style, the film takes a hard look at exploitation and the commodification of women's bodies, offering a dark critique of power dynamics of gender, race, and socio-economic class. Despite the heavy themes, however, the movie manages to maintain a satirical bite, making the underlying commentary surprisingly palatable and impactful.

Bravo's direction draws heavily from social media aesthetics, employing emojis, read messages, and Twitter notification sound effects to create an ambiance that's unmistakably digital age. Through this unique stylistic choice, the film manages to echo the voice of its source material while delivering a sleek and modern noir. At the same time, it subtly highlights the absurdity and potential danger of our constant quest for online validation and fascination with viral stories.

The film's cinematography by Ari Wegner is equally enthralling, with palette-rich Floridian landscapes, underlit strip clubs that pulsate in neon, and disquieting motel rooms. The beats of the film move with a radical rhythm, keeping audiences anxious, intrigued, and entertained throughout the journey.

The striking music score by Mica Levi adds another layer to the film's treacherous aura. From the soundtrack featuring Dean Blunt and HTRK to Levi's haunting original compositions, every song seems meticulously chosen, adding to the complexity of the narrative's emotions.

Unique and intriguing, Zola is less of a traditional narrative and more of a wild ride that plunges audiences deep into the intriguing world of viral internet stories. It's a film that ties together social media culture, vice-filled adventures, and the darkest corners of human nature in one unflinchingly bold package while inviting its audience to question the authenticity of the stories we consume, and the lines we blur, online and offline.

Zola is a Comedy, Crime movie released in 2021. It has a runtime of 90 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.5. It also holds a MetaScore of 76.

How to Watch Zola

Where can I stream Zola movie online? Zola is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Max, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Zola for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Janicza Bravo
Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Ari'el Stachel, Colman Domingo
Also directed by Janicza Bravo
Also starring Riley Keough
Zola is available on .