‘Zola’ Movie Review

Possibly the first movie ever based on a Twitter thread, Zola tells a hair-raising, hilarious true-life story about Zola (Taylour Paige), a waitress and part-time stripper, who is conned into a horrific road trip to Florida by her new friend Stefani (Riley Keough).

When they arrive in Tampa, it emerges that the club they’re going to perform in is not everything Stefani said it was, and her driver (Colman Domingo) is less a friend than an utterly terrifying criminal, while Stefani’s simpering boyfriend, Derek (Nicholas Braun) is hopelessly na├»ve and seemingly even less aware than Zola of what’s about to happen.

Directed by Janicza Bravo, Zola is part Harmony Korine-style trashsploitation comedy and part genuinely worrying crime story about modern sex slavery. It’s written with a real ear for the moronic language of online chatter. Zola and her “friend” Stefani communicate in a stream of semi-comprehensible yowls peppered with pointless obscenities and phone notification chirps all accentuated by Mica Levi’s twinkly score. The different natures of their respective trashiness gradually become apparent as Zola becomes a patient voice of reason to the unspeakable Stefani. It becomes particularly hilarious when the narration’s point of view changes to Stefani.

If there’s anything wrong with Zola it’s just that it feels like it makes a solid case for the doomsaying of Oswald Spengler, functioning as a slightly painful reminder that we are truly living in the ashes of civilisation. But it is sublimely funny regardless.