A comic thriller showcasing Taylour Paige and Twitter. It's fun and furious.
If the Safdie Brothers had made Zola, then no one would be surprised. But they didn’t because a bunch of other lesser-known artists managed to blend pop, blazing color and attitude as they riffed on a tweet by A’Ziah King. Writer-Director Janicza Bravo joined her Lemon mind with writer Jeremy O. Harris, both taking on David Kushner’s tweet adaptation to create a strangely effective crime-comedy about two young women bouncing around a parlous life in Florida.
Theirs is a Safdie world of cons and comedy, danger and colorful language with enough naivete and worldliness to cross Elmore Leonard with Leonard Cohen. Wiry blonde Stefani (Riley Keough) has enticed gorgeous stripper Zola (Taylour Paige) to accompany her on an escapade to Florida that takes Zola, a neophyte when it comes to crime, close to murder and prostitution.
Although it’s her story, it is also the tale of twenty-something women finding their way dangerously close to spiritual and mortal danger.
Along the way, we find humor and a bit of love with enough street and ethnic vocab to be a primer for us traditional adults on urban life running amok in the digital age. Pimps, guns, and smart phones layer the background for wildly colored costumes and characters peopling the underside of a free-wheeling street scene.
I don’t plan to say more about the plot lest you think it is important because what is the center of the story is the experiential arc of seemingly innocent Zola and the charm of definitely-experienced Stefani. Although the story may elude you, you’ll not forget these two as they flirt with danger and themselves looking for thrills and fulfillment in all the wrong places.
Zola is a crazy road trip that mashes up Midnight Cowboy and Thelma and Louise to give us laughs about the digital age, and maybe enough caution to keep us inside, pandemic or not.
Director: Janicza Bravo (Lemon)
Screenplay: Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris (The Amateur)
Cast: Taylour Paige(Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Riley Keough (It Comes at Night)
Run Time: 1h 26m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com