Zola (2021) [MOVIE REVIEW – WITH VIDEO REVIEW]

Photo: WBUR

“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense…” From the moment A’Ziah “Zola” King’s 148 tweet epic was sent to me back in 2015 I was sucked into Zola’s world. At first I thought it was just something special circulating around Black Twitter only because when I would read the story to my friends that weren’t people of color, they didn’t really seem to understand. However, that was six years ago and a lot has changed culture-wise since then. Fast forward five years and I come to find out that the Zola story, also known as #TheStory is everywhere and is getting its own movie, so I’m like, “Bet. It’s on”. Then the pandemic happened and I had to wait a little bit longer before watching it (Sad face). But that’s all in the past now, Zola (2021, directed by Janicza Bravo) is here now, and I too am also here for it.

If you’re not familiar with #TheStory, I’ve included the thread above for your own personal reading experience. But it would be my pleasure just to give you a quick synopsis of the events that happened in Florida. Zola was a stripper/waitress working at Hooters who made acquaintances with another stripper named Jessica one night on her waitress shift in Detroit. The two hit it off and Jessica offered Zola an opportunity to go to Tampa together and do a dancing job to make some big money. Zola was a little skeptical at first, but eventually she agreed. I don’t think the Florida trip was anything that Zola was expecting because chaos ensues. The story is filled with prostitution, attempted suicide, sugar daddies, murder and even someone jumping out of a window and poor Zola just wants to get back home to Detroit; yeah…it’s a lot, but it’ll keep you reading. Since the original Twitter thread has been released it has been discovered that there were some inconsistencies and admitted embellishment. But to be honest, inconsistencies or not the tale is so entertaining and you can’t overlook the fact that a black woman took to Twitter – particularly Black Twitter- and essentially created a compelling screenplay on her own that transcended to mainstream culture. So much so that an actual movie was adapted from her vision with actual black representation. I have to say thank you to classic movies like The Player’s Club (1998, directed by Ice Cube) that didn’t quite reach the pop zeitgeist, but definitely paved the way for a movie like Zola. So let’s take a trip (My first trip back actually since February 2020 due to the pandemic) to the movies to go on a hell of a messy adventure!

Photo: IMDB

Taylour Paige steps in to star as Zola, and Jessica’s name has been changed to Stefani (Riley Keough) in the film. I went with my best friend and fellow Classy Nerd, Quentin to watch Zola, and boy were we not disappointed. May I just say that the production company A24 has been on fire over the last few years. With movies like Midsommar, Uncut Gems, Lady Bird, Moonlight and television shows like Euphoria, A24 has established itself as the company that will take a project that feels like it’s meant for an underground cult following accustomed to extreme violence, sex and sensory overload and somehow make it mainstream art for general public consumption without losing its balls along the development process. A24 is where you go when you want to watch a raw film. They’re producing bangers across the board with subjects and explicit scenes that have never been seen to this extent in mainstream American screens. When I watch anything I will ask myself, “How would John Waters feel about this?” and I think a John Waters movie could definitely fit in an A24 production and that’s alright with me.

But back to Zola. This movie had me excited, entertained, at some points I was like “Oh my god, what am I watching?!” but in a good way. Most of all I was invested in Zola. The aesthetic of the film is unbelievable and there are some seriously creative shots in there. It’s just great cinematography. You know what the cinematography made me feel like as far as colors, sound and lighting go? It made me feel like I was high, which is pretty much Zola’s whole trip – drugs, stripping and sex. The dialogue was great, it captivated me. I felt like the dialogue read just like the tweets that were originally posted by  A’Ziah “Zola” King and Stefani’s character as an over-the-top white girl with an offensive black accent sounded exactly like I imagined she sounded like based on Zola’s tweets. Every character felt like Zola’s descriptions, especially Coleman Domingo’s performance as “X”. And as a Florida resident I know what Tampa feels like and that movie definitely felt like Tampa.


Zola was great, and I think that the film crosses over culturally. I think it will open people’s eyes to a world they probably hadn’t considered thinking of and will definitely make them aware in addition to being entertained. Believe me when I say that Zola is an adventure and really did an amazing job of bringing a story off Twitter to life on the big screen. It’s a cultural gamechanger. But don’t just take my word for it, Quentin has some thoughts of his own on Zola n our conversations below:

You can find Quentin on Twitter: @SpaceLordJuno

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